Hector Neris got pretty fucking amped when Bryce Harper tracked down Justin Turner’s flyball into right centerfield on Thursday, which ended the game and gave the Phillies a 7-6 win over the Dodgers. It was an emotional level that certainly caught the attention of the Los Angeles dugout, with every player seemingly placing themselves in a “ready” position as if something was going to go down. Turner had slowed down his trot back and started chirping at Philadelphia, and Max Muncy briefly stepped out onto the field, but nothing seriously materialized between the two squads.
Muncy told reporters that once the Harper had caught the final out, Neris turned to the Dodgers dugout and released a loud “fuck you” in that direction. The infielder had a pretty good guess as to why the the closer acted in that way
“He’s blown about eight saves against us over the last two years, so I guess he was finally excited he got one. Whatever,” Muncy said.
That certainly could have something to do with it. Coming into Thursday’s game, Neris was 0-2 with a 8.49 ERA in 11 2/3 career innings against Los Angeles and once blew a save by giving up back-to-back-to-back homers in the bottom of the ninth. Another part of it likely came from the fact that he had given up a solo homer to Alex Verdugo, the second-to-last batter he faced.
Most of Neris’s emotion, however, definitely stemmed from the fact that things had gone much differently for him on Wednesday. After giving up a three-run homer to Matt Beaty, squandering a 6-5 Phillies lead and blowing the save as a result, the closer had plunked David Freese with a 95 mph pitch up near the batter’s head. Neris was ejected, along with manager Gabe Kapler, but the Phillies eventually rallied for a 9-8 win.
MLB decided that the pitcher’s actions were intentional, and suspended him for three games—a decision that was probably made easier after reviewing J.T. Realmuto’s reaction to the plunking.
But Neris is currently appealing that suspension which meant that he was allowed to play on Thursday. He’s even taken to proclaiming his innocence in this particular situation, as he swears that he was just hyped up over the win and had no intention of directly riling up his opponents.
“You can just watch the replay and look at our dugout. Not one person moved,” Muncy said. “We were all there sticking up for each other, and that’s the kind of team we have.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts understandably had a different take on the matter, calling Neris’s celebration “unacceptable,” and said it was the antithesis of the way his team played, which was “straight and clean.” Yet even that statement seems to be a little debatable.
The next series these two teams play against each other should just take place in an octagon so that the players can escalate this tension in a more contained environment.