PHILADELPHIA -- Benches cleared in the fifth inning Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Nationals center fielder Denard Span objected to an inside fastball on the first pitch of his at-bat with Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee. Span had his head down, when Lee snuck a pitch to the plate, but instead of a strike it came up and in for a ball.
"I made a pitch and he was in the box and wasn't ready," Lee said. "I'll do that every time. If they want to stand there and not look, I'll take a strike every time. I threw a ball, so maybe he was mad because it was close to him, but if they are going to stand there and not look, I'm going to throw a pitch. I think it's on the hitter to be in the box and make sure they are ready. I'll take advantage of that every time I can."
Span stared at Lee after the pitch. Once Lee looked back, Span shrugged his shoulders and said, "Come on, man."
"I've been quick-pitched before, but I've never been quick-pitched when I'm not looking, and also quick-pitched up and in when I'm not looking," Span said. "So that's what bothered me. I didn't like the fact he quick-pitched me, because he's Cy Young. He can get guys out without doing that. … If one slips, hits me in the head when I'm not looking … it's just over something stupid. I didn't like that at all. It was nothing like I wanted to go after him and fight him or anything like that. I just wanted to let him know I didn't appreciate that. We're playing this game trying not to get guys hurt. Whenever you do something like that to me, I think that's not good at all."
Span grounded out to second base to score the Nationals a run. As he returned to the Nationals' dugout, Lee was talking to home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds. Lee's words caught Span's attention. Span stopped and confronted Lee.
"He was talking to the umpire, but I felt like he was talking to me," Span said. "I don't know what the umpire asked him, but I think the umpire was letting him know whatever. And then he loud-talked the umpire, saying: 'If he's in the box, he needs to be ready to hit.' When he said that, I was like: 'OK, you're talking to me, indirectly. So I'm going to go tell you what I have to say now.' That's what it was."
The benches and bullpens emptied, but nobody was shoved and no punches were thrown.
"I think it got overblown," Lee said. "I don't think he was mad, and I wasn't mad. I was just trying to explain what happened, especially in that situation -- second and third, one out. If a guy is going to get in the batter's box and not look, I'm going to throw a pitch. There's no way around it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.