In the fourth inning, Dukes was almost hit by a Mike Pelfrey pitch. The outfielder was upset and had to be restrained by home-plate umpire Doug Eddings, Mets catcher Brian Schneider, manager Manny Acta, third-base coach Tim Tolman and hitting coach Lenny Harris. The benches never emptied, however.
Dukes, who is hitting .275 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs, thought Pelfrey was trying to hit him after the right fielder hit a home run off the right-hander in the second inning. The Mets, who beat the Nats, 13-10, already had a 7-1 lead by the time Dukes was almost plunked. The replay showed that the ball just missed Dukes' uniform top.
"I definitely was not trying to hit him," Pelfrey said. "I was just happy in his last at-bat when I hit him [in the fifth inning] that he knew it wasn't on purpose. He's probably not the guy, you know, you want to make mad. He flipped out, and I didn't even think that ball was even close, so I looked back at him and said, 'Why would I hit you?' I know he's an aggressive hitter, and I was just trying to get the ball in on him."
Order was restored 10 minutes later, but Dukes displayed erratic behavior toward the Shea Stadium crowd all night. After scoring on Wil Nieves' RBI single in the fourth, the crowd booed, and Dukes made an obscene gesture directed at the fans before heading into the dugout.
After lining out to David Wright in the seventh, Dukes stuck his tongue out at the fans. In the ninth after grounding out to second baseman Argenis Reyes, Dukes jogged toward the dugout, waved his arms to a booing crowd and then blew them a kiss.
"He has worked very hard this year," Acta said. "The Nationals have worked very hard with him to work with his temper. He has been great this whole season. It's unfortunate what happened tonight, but he's human."
Acta said he and the coaching staff told Dukes throughout the game to keep his cool. He responded to them professionally in the dugout, but he didn't take it to heart when he went on the field.
A Nationals spokesman told the media that Dukes was not going to address reporters about his behavior. Reporters waited out anyway near his locker. But Dukes said to the spokesman, 'What is there to talk about?'"
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was reluctant to talk about what happened with Dukes on the field.
"That's not for me to talk about, but I think he is an emotional player," Zimmerman said. "But I don't know if there is a place for that in this kind of game. He is a great player. He has a lot to learn, but I think he showed the type of talent he has tonight. It's just one of those things."
It appears the Nationals may consider disciplinary action against Dukes.
"The day hasn't even finished yet," Acta said. "We have to think things through and go from there."
It's not the first time Dukes displayed unusual behavior this season. On June 10, TV cameras caught Acta dressing down Dukes in the dugout in Pittsburgh.
The confrontation came a few minutes after Lastings Milledge hit a two-run homer, scoring Dukes ahead of him in the ninth inning. According to baseball sources, Acta was not angry with Dukes for showboating with Milledge near home plate after the home run. There was a miscommunication in the dugout, and Dukes thought that Acta didn't want to shake his hand.
Two days later, Dukes formally apologized to Acta and his teammates for the misunderstanding that occurred between him and the skipper.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.