After early ejections, Phils come undone vs. Nats

Burnett, Sandberg tossed in second in disagreement about strike zone

After early ejections, Phils come undone vs. Nats

WASHINGTON -- A.J. Burnett had never been thrown out of Major League game in 16 seasons entering Saturday night.

That changed in the Phillies' 11-0 loss to the Nationals at Nationals Park. And the right-hander made sure his first career ejection was a memorable one.

The trouble started in the bottom of the second inning when Anthony Rendon drove a sinker from Burnett into the seats in left-center field for a three-run home run that gave the Nationals a 5-0 lead. Earlier in the at-bat, though, Burnett was surprised at a pitch home-plate umpire Chris Guccione called outside.

After the call, Burnett said he calmly inquired to Guccione about whether the pitch missed outside. Guccione replied that it did. Burnett returned to the rubber and proceeded to throw before Rendon got a hold of the 3-1 delivery.

Jayson Werth then stepped to the plate, and Burnett, angry about the previous call, purposely threw the first pitch significantly outside. He looked at Guccione, gestured with his hand and said, "That's outside."

This time he wasn't asking Guccione. He was telling him.

And that was all the umpire needed to hear before he sprinted out from behind home plate, removed his mask and tossed Burnett from the game after just 1 2/3 innings.

"That one to Rendon looked like something that he had called already in the game," Burnett said. "That's the thing: You throw a pitch that you think that's been called already, and you expect it to be called again."

Manager Ryne Sandberg then jogged onto the field for an explanation and to protect his player. The skipper's argument was that Guccione was too quick in ejecting Burnett. After all, he was the starting pitcher, and the Phillies' bullpen went 6 1/3 innings Thursday night when Cliff Lee left the contest with a left elbow strain.

But the point was moot. And after the discussion escalated to a screaming match, Sandberg was also thrown out.

"I thought both guys were in the wrong," Sandberg said. "A.J. can't get tossed there on his part and the umpire, I thought, was a little early on the ejection."

The tempers didn't stop there, though. After Sandberg was tossed, Burnett sprinted toward the four-member crew and needed to be restrained by second-base umpire Tom Hallion as he yelled at Guccione. Burnett wouldn't disclose what his message to Guccione was when he spoke after the game.

"That was to him and not to the world," Burnett said. "He got it."

Sandberg and Burnett left the field after several minutes. But the manager was then faced with an even bigger problem: finding the arms to get the Phillies through this game after such a taxing night in the series opener on Thursday.

Phillippe Aumont relieved Burnett and retired Werth for the final out of the second inning. But the Nationals tagged the right-hander for six earned runs on eight hits over his next 1 2/3 innings to turn the game into a blowout. Aumont was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after the game with a corresponding move to be made on Sunday.

Cesar Jimenez, Mario Hollands and Antonio Bastardo combined to hold the Nationals without a run in the final 4 1/3 innings.

With the large cushion, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann cruised to his 50th career victory, spinning seven scoreless innings while striking out eight.

"I felt good," Zimmermann said. "These guys gave me some runs early. I was able to settle in, just throw strikes and let the defense work."

After the game, Burnett said there was one thing he would take back from his outburst: flipping the ball toward Guccione as he walked off the field and into the dugout.

"That's uncalled for," he said.

Other than that, Burnett stood by his actions, primarily because the veteran believes there is a discrepancy between how hitters and pitchers can argue balls and strikes.

"Just one of those things where he felt like I showed him up in front of 40,000 people," Burnett said. "You can have hitters step out of the box and basically look him in the eye and tell him that the ball's up and tell him that the ball is a strike. But that's not showing him up? So it's different for us [pitchers]. We're out there. We're in the center stage."

Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.