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Nats fume at Simmons for injuring Escobar


Nats fume at Simmons for injuring Escobar

Updated at 12:30 a.m.

ATLANTA — Yunel Escobar is expected to miss a day or two after his left hand was cut in multiple places on a late, hard slide by Andrelton Simmons during Tuesday night’s game that left several Nationals teammates fuming over what they perceived as a dirty play by the Braves shortstop.

“That kid’s a good player,” Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond said of Simmons. “He plays with a lot of energy. But he’s got to be way smarter than that. That was ugly. It looked ugly. I’m sure when he goes back and looks at it, hopefully he learns from it.”

“Andrelton plays with a lot of energy and is a good player, but that’s a B.S. slide,” right fielder Bryce Harper added. “That’s something you don’t do. It’s just not smart. If he goes and looks back at it, he might see that it wasn’t a good idea.”

The play in question occurred during the bottom of the fifth inning of what wound up an 8-4 Braves victory at Turner Field. With Simmons on first base, Nationals starter Doug Fister uncorked a wayward pickoff attempt that rolled all the way to the tarp stationed along the right-field stands. Second baseman Danny Espinosa retrieved the ball and fired a one-hop throw to third, where Escobar was waiting and had Simmons out by two steps.

Simmons, though, came in hard and late, and his right foot slammed into Escobar’s glove, knocking it and the ball away and leaving his hand bloody. In obvious pain, Escobar was escorted off the field by assistant trainer Steve Gober, unable to finish the game.

“It just happens in the game sometimes,” Escobar said through interpreter Nilson Robledo, adding he expects to miss one or two days while his hand heals.

Escobar and Nationals manager Matt Williams wouldn’t directly give their opinion on Simmons’ slide, but several others in the clubhouse didn’t hesitate to criticize their opponent. And on the field, they appeared to try to exact some revenge when rookie reliever Rafael Martin’s first pitch in the bottom of the seventh got a piece of Simmons in the back before scooting to the backstop.

Atlanta outfielder Jonny Gomes, who came out of the dugout to argue, was ejected after the plunking. Martin and both dugouts were given warnings by plate umpire Bill Welke.

“I don’t even want to get into it,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters after the game. “I thought Simmons, he just slid a little late into third base, that’s all. We all know and have seen him play, and sometimes he can slide a little crazy. There was nothing malicious about it. I’m surprised, really, with how they reacted. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“I was just going hard and trying to go right for the bag,” Simmons told reporters. “It’s bad that somebody got hurt. Hopefully it’s not that bad, but I was just trying to play hard.”

This is the third injury Escobar has suffered since joining the Nationals over the winter. He strained an oblique muscle during spring training and missed three weeks. He also missed two games earlier this month with a mild groin strain.

The Nationals had no choice but to play Espinosa at third base and Dan Uggla at second base when Escobar was out with the groin injury, and they’ll likely need to do the same if he can’t play Tuesday or Wednesday, barring the promotion of another infielder from their farm system.

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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

WASHINGTON -- Visuals can change everything.

It’s happened across sports in different fashion. An issue is discussed or dismissed until a troubling incident is brought to life via video in front of everyone’s eyes.

That breaking point on extended netting arrived for Major League Baseball after Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. pulled a line drive into the stands May 29. The ball struck a four-year-old girl. But, it was Almora’s reaction, as much as anything, which made the reality so stark. He was stunned and moved to tears. The player’s reaction amplified the incident to a level which forced something to be done.

Steps will be taken at Nationals Park to prevent such an incident. The team announced Thursday it will extend the protective netting up the foul line during the All-Star break. It will end just short of the foul poles. Washington has a good window to complete the work because it goes on the road following the All-Star break. The Nationals’ final pre-break home game is July 7. They don’t return to Nationals Park until July 22.

“As players, it's something that we've pushed for and advocated for years now,” Sean Doolittle said. “I think as you see exit velocities that have continued to increase and these new stadiums that are bringing fans closer and closer to the action, you're seeing balls go into the stands at really, really high speeds. It's really scary. Max broke his nose the other day on a BP pitch that was probably 50 mph and these balls are going into the seats over 100 mph.

“So, I think, hopefully, It's a way to keep fans safe while bringing them closer to the action. As somebody that watches the vast majority of games from behind a screen or chain-linked fence, I can promise you get used to it really, really quickly. It doesn't hinder your view at all. You think the most expensive seats in the stands, they're right behind home plate. People look through a net. I promise you-you can still see the game and after five minutes you don't even notice that it's there.”

Ryan Zimmerman called it a “no-brainer.” Trea Turner wants fans to be paying more attention, in addition to the netting.

“You only have to pay attention to small snippets of the game,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “I just want people to pay attention. You can’t block everybody off from a foul pop that goes over the net, that can still hit people. You’re not going to foolproof it.”

Netting in Nationals Park will be thinner than the current netting, according to the team. It will also have sections which can be raised pregame in order to allow players to interact with fans.

The Almora incident was referenced in a letter from Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner announcing the extension. The Nationals were also witnesses to an Eloy Jiménez foul ball in Chicago which struck a young fan in Chicago on June 11.

“Jiménez hit a line drive really hard foul and I saw a girl looking towards me -- I don’t know what she was looking at but was kind of looking in the outfield direction, hit her in the side of the face,” Turner said. “I heard it hit her. What sticks in my head is when I heard the ball hit her. Not good.”

Washington becomes the second team to announce a planned extension. The White Sox were the first.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Seattle on June 5 he didn’t expect league-wide changes in netting this season. Manfred cited a range of reasons from ballpark framework to fan objections. In 2015, the commissioner’s office recommended teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts. Three years later, that task was completed. The next steps have slowly begun.


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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

The Washington Nationals will become the latest MLB team to extend their protective netting down the first and third base lines, team owner Mark Lerner announced on Thursday. A new netting will be installed at Nationals Park during the MLB All-Star break. 

The new netting will extend from the end of the dugout, where they currently end, and go to the left and right field corners. It will be designed with certain sections that can be raised to allow for fan interaction before the games. 

In his announcement, Lerner stated "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive. I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."

This announcement comes fresh off the heels of a national conversation about the importance of netting in ballparks and more that needs to be done to protect the fans. As Lerner referenced, a young fan was hit by a foul ball during an Astros-Cubs matchup in May. The girl was rushed to the hospital and left those in attendance paralyzed in shock, especially Cub Albert Almora Jr. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he did not expect the league to step in this season for a league-wide change. However, he did mention that it would continue to be discussed and stressed the importance of fan safety. 

As a result, some teams are taking matters into their own hands. The Chicago White Sox became the first team to announce an extension of their current protective netting to the foul poles. 

Preceding the White Sox announcement, both Chicago and the Nationals experienced a traumatic foul ball situation. Chicago's Eloy Jimenez ripped a foul ball down the line and hit an unsuspecting fan.  

The first game with the new netting with be on Monday, July 22 against the Colorado Rockies.