There's still some uncertainty among the Marlins about why Dodgers reliever Jeff Weaver drilled Hanley Ramirez with a pitch recently. Was it because the Marlins were pounding the Dodgers that day, and doing it in a way the Dodgers considered to be disrespectful? Was it because Ramirez, as he suspects, singled off Weaver in the previous at bat to make it an 8-0 game? ("He couldn't get me out, so he hit me," Ramirez said.) Or was it payback for two nights before when Josh Johnson plunked Dodgers star Manny Ramirez?
The latter theory gained steam on Tuesday when the Brewers' Prince Fielder was hit by a pitch two innings after Manny Ramirez was hit by one. Fielder, angry, tried to storm into the Dodgers clubhouse after the game but was stopped before he could get inside. Dodgers catcher Russell Martin all but admitted retaliation was the reason when he said: "It's part of the game. Our premier hitter gets hit and he's been hit around quite a bit this year. It's just kind of protection."
Putting two and two together, veteran Marlins reliever Brendan Donnelly told me Wednesday that "Apparently, it seems like the Dodgers have an unwritten rule in place."
And that rule would be that if Manny Ramirez is hit for any reason, intentionally or unintentionally, expect there to be retaliation. In other words, mess with Manny Ramirez at your own risk. Remember, shortly before the Marlins arrived in Los Angeles, the Reds' Homer Bailey hit Manny Ramirez in the wrist, which knocked him out of that game and kept him from starting the next one. Did the word go out then to the Dodgers' pitching staff?
"That's their 'guy'," Donnelly said of the Dodgers star.
There is no possible way anyone on the Dodgers could have construed that Johnson hit Manny Ramirez on purpose. There is no recent history of animosity involving the two players or their teams. It was the first game of the series. There were two outs in the first with the bases empty. And the count was 1-2. Johnson was one strike away from ending the inning. He had no reason to hit Manny Ramirez. None.
Is it considered crossing the line if the Dodgers are seeking retaliation every time Manny Ramirez is hit by a pitch, for whatever reason? It's a hard question to answer. But Donnelly did say this:
"Crossing the line is thrwoing at a guy's head," he said. "And crossing the line is throwing at a guy two days later. The wrong time to handle it is two days later. Do we have a rule? No. Do the Dodgers? I don't know. You'll have to ask them."
With a left-hander going for the Nationals (John Lannan), manager Fredi Gonzalez is trying something new with his lineup, starting Emilio Bonifacio in center and shifting Cody Ross to right. Jeremy Hermida gets the night off. Gonzalez said he prefers to have Bonifacio in center instead of right, which he said is a harder position to handle for an inexperienced outfielder like Bonifacio. It wil be the first start of Bonifacio's major-league career in center:
Marlins: 1. Chris Coghlan, lf; 2. Nick Johnson, 1b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Jorge Cantu, 3b; 5. Dan Uggla, 2b; 6. Cody Ross, rf; 7. Ronny Paulino, c; 8. Emilio Bonifacio, cf; 9. Rick VandenHurk, p.
Nationals: 1. Nyjer Morgan, cf; 2. Cristian Guzman, ss; 3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3b; 4. Adam Dunn, 1b; 5. Josh Willingham, lf; 6. Elijah Dukes, rf; 7. Ronnie Belliard, 2b; 8. Wil Nieves, c; 9. John Lannan, p.