Kyle Harrison

Giants, Phillies agree benches-clearing fracas was no big deal

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SAN FRANCISCO – Almost everyone involved agreed that Wednesday’s mini brouhaha between Giants pitcher Kyle Harrison and Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper was basically much ado about nothing.

In the fourth inning, Harrison threw back-to-back 93-mph and 94-mph fastballs that sailed up and in on Harper, prompting both dugouts to clear while players from both bullpens came running in.

Harper, who nearly shattered his bat in the dugout after striking out in the first inning, backed away from the plate as the second pitch came inside. His helmet flew off his head and broke as it landed on the ground.

That led to several minutes of players and coaches standing around on the field basically doing nothing. To call it a bench-clearing brawl would be total misleading. No punches were thrown, although Giants third base coach Matt Williams had to be restrained at one point.

When the dust settled, Harrison insisted he wasn’t trying to hit Harper, and Harper came to the defense of the San Francisco lefty.

“Really just trying to execute pitches, that’s all I was trying to do in that moment. That’s it,” Harrison said. “I maybe missed a little in, but I’m trying to get him out. That’s a good player, so got to put it in spots where he might not be happy.”

Harper already was considered a villain to Giants fans dating back to his dust-up with former San Francisco closer Hunter Strickland in 2017, when Strickland hit Harper in the ribs with a pitch. Harper threw his batting helmet at Strickland then charged the mound. Both men exchanged punches before order was restored, and both wound up being suspended by MLB over the incident.

This latest episode came exactly seven years after that, only this time it was far more mild when the benches emptied.

Harper was asked if his reaction was a result of previous times that he has been hit by pitches near his head. In 2021, he absorbed a 97-mph fastball from St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Genesis Cabrera in the face.

“I mean, you get hit in the face, it’s just not fun,” Harper said before reiterating himself. “[Harrison] didn’t mean to.”

That was the general consensus on a day when the Giants fell short in their quest to sweep the best team in baseball.

“Any time that you get a fastball up by your head, it’s a scary thing,” Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said. “He had one up and in, he had some words. Another one went up and in, and then everything just kind of happened. It’s not a logical time for thinking. The pitch is coming in, it’s fast, it’s scary.”

Phillies manager Rob Thomson downplayed the incident, saying that Harrison lost control on a few pitches.

“That’s all it is,” Thomson said. “He’s not throwing at [Harper].

“Our guys were just a little bit upset that he came up and in a couple times to Harp. And it looked worse than it was because the helmet flipped off, and that’s when it broke. It looked like from our advantage point that he got hit there. So I think everybody got kind of bent out of shape a little bit.”

Umpires eventually restored order and issued warnings to both dugouts.

Harper initially took exception when Harrison threw a 1-2 pitch that was further inside than intended. He shouted in Harrison’s direction, then stepped back in the box before another fastball came flying inside and appeared to hit Harper. Replays showed that the pitch hit the nob of Harper’s bat and was ruled foul after Giants manager Bob Melvin called for a review.

“He’s not doing it on purpose,” Melvin said. “Just when he misses, it’s typically on that side of the plate.”

After the game resumed, Harrison got Harper to ground out to shortstop.

When asked if he had any reservations about throwing inside again to Harper, Harrison was defiant in his reasoning.

“I would have gone in again. Why not?” he said. “We’re trying to get guys out and it’s a spot where I thought I could get him. It might have leaked a little bit too in but really just focused on the baseball side [of things] and tried to execute.”

Ironically, one of Harper’s biggest supporters was Giants catcher Curt Casali. Casali defended Harrison then credited Harper for not flipping out.

“There’s history there. I can understand it, but for me, I can sleep well knowing that the intent wasn’t there,” Casali said. “I’ll give Bryce some credit. He got upset then immediately calmed down. He wasn’t looking for a fight. He just reacted. That’s fine, but I think just as human beings, you have to look at the situation for what it is. Benches cleared, that’s one thing. But I think we had it under control right away. I wish it didn’t happen, but it’s over with.”

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