Why Frank Francisco drilled Jayson Werth on Thursday is not yet clear. That it was intentional—and stupid—was obvious to at least three people: Werth, Bryce Harper and Mets broadcaster Ron Darling.
It came with no outs in the eighth inning, on a 3-0 fastball, after Francisco had already allowed doubles to the first two batters he faced, extending Washington’s lead to 5-2. (The Nats ended up winning, 7-2. At this point, frustration is as good a guess as any when it comes to pinpointing Francisco’s motivation.)
Werth knew it was intentional when it happened. So, apparently did plate ump Anthony Recker, who, despite the fact that Werth made no move toward the mound, grabbed the barrel of his bat as he lingered near the plate, staring at Francisco.
“Boy, was that obvious,” said Darling on the broadcast. “For you folks at home—and you hear me all the time say, ‘That wasn’t intentional’—well, this one was intentional.”
Darling was then asked by broadcaster Gary Cohen why Francisco would drill a batter in that situation.
Darling’s reply: “Because he’s a fool.” (Watch it here.)
Werth wouldn’t comment after the game, but handled things in the moment, taking out shortstop Reuben Tejada moments later with an aggressive slide at second base. Harper, who reached on a fielder’s choice, did something similar to second baseman Daniel Murphy.
(The idea was summed up by Bob Brenly in The Baseball Codes: “I’ve gotten on ﬁrst base when I’ve been hit by a pitch and told the ﬁrst baseman, ‘If there’s a ground ball hit I’m going to fuck up one of your middle inﬁelders, and [pointing to the mound] you can tell him that it was his fault.’ That’s a way you can get them to police themselves. A pitcher drills somebody just because he feels like it, and if one of the middle inﬁelders gets ﬂipped out there he’s going to tell the pitcher to knock it off. Ultimately, that’s all we want anyway—just play the game the right way.”)
“That was total B.S. what Francisco did there,” said a scout in attendance, in a Washington Post report. “Almost got his shortstop’s ankle broken.”
Sure enough, Nationals pitchers never retaliated. If Werth’s slide wasn’t enough for them, they’ll have to wait until next year to address the issue, because the teams don’t meet again this season.
Update (9/16): At least one Mets pitcher wasn’t too pleased.