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Little action as benches clear in Cubs’ setback to Nationals

The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals benches clear after a tight pitch to the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in the sixth inning at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Thursday, September 6, 2012. The Nationals beat the Cubs, 9-2.

By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune –

WASHINGTON — When Dale Sveum went wild during an argument with umpire Larry Vanover on Wednesday night at National Park, it was seem as an anomaly in an otherwise placid season for the mellow Cubs’ manager.

When bench coach Jamie Quirk was ejected during the fifth inning of Thursday’s 9-2 loss to the Nationals, after getting into a heated shouting match with Washington’s third base coach Bo Porter, it was likely a sign the Cubs’ coaches frustrations were boiling over.

But when catcher Steve Clevenger and reliever Manny Corpas were ejected one inning later after a second bench-clearing brouhaha ignited by an apparent purpose pitch to Nationals’ rookie Bryce Harper, it seemed like both were auditioning for roster spots in 2013.

The Cubs dropped their sixth straight game and fell to 51-86, now on pace to lose 102 games after the four-game sweep.

“Probably one of the biggest butt-whippings I’ve gotten in my career, as a coach or player,” Sveum said. “I don’t remember getting manhandled that bad in any kind of series I’ve ever been a part of.”

At least the Cubs went down fighting on Thursday, literally if not figuratively.

When all was said and done, Quirk, Clevenger and Corpas were gone, while the only Nationals player ejected was reliever Michael Gonzalez, whom Corpas was trying to keep away from Lendy Castillo.

The incidents began after the Nationals took a 7-2 lead after four innings. With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, Jayson Werth swung at a 3-0 pitch, starting Quirk’s shouting to Porter. Crew chief Jerry Layne said Quirk was “screaming out obscenities (to Porter and) I just felt that was inappropriate and that’s what caused everything.”

Porter left his coaching box and walked over to the dugout steps, screaming at Quirk.

Quirk declined to comment, but plans to defend himself strenuously during Major League Baseball’s investigation.

“You’re up 7-2 … you don’t swing 3-0 in that situation,” Clevenger said.

The Nationals dugout emptied, as did both bullpens. Nothing resulted but a lot of gesturing and shouting. Layne said he allowed Porter to remain to coach third because time was out when he went to the dugout.

Peace reigned for several minutes, until the 19-year-old Harper led off the bottom of the sixth. Castillo threw an inside pitch to Harper that Clevenger let go to the backstop. Harper began gesturing and yelling expletives at Castillo as both dugouts emptied, with the bullpens following in lockstep.

Sveum and Clevenger said it was “not intentional.”

“We’re not going to hit their players for no reason,” Sveum said, calling it a “coincidence” that Castillo almost hit Harper after the earlier dispute.

After more shoving and pushing, it appeared to be over with no harm no foul. But Clevenger pushed Michael Morse, re-igniting the scuffling. Clevenger tried to take a swing at Ian Desmond, before the umpires and coaches managed to cool things down.

“I was in the middle trying to break everything up,” Clevenger said.

In the end, it was just a day when things boiled over.

“Sometimes thing happen,” Sveum said. “Frustrations are frustrations. It’s part of baseball and part of competition.”

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