For some reason I still struggle to comprehend in full, Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels took it upon himself to deliver a message to Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper the first time the two players faced each other in 2012. Hamels said he tried to send a message to the rising prospect and young face of the Nationals organization, and he never backed away from that. Of course, Harper one-upped Hamels by hustling to third base on a single and then stealing home as Hamels checked the runner at first base.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2l78lH-71Y]
After that game, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo went so far as to say Hamels was classless, gutless and “fake tough.” The Phillies may have had the last laugh on that night in May with a 9-3 victory, but Harper and the Nationals have clearly held the upper hand in the NL East pecking order since. Regardless of where their respective franchises may be placed in the NL East, Hamels and Harper are two of the biggest names around baseball from the NL East, so anytime they square off it is likely to be entertaining. This is why Sports on Earth included Hamels and Harper among the top 10 batter-pitcher rivalries in baseball, ranking Hamels and Harper fifth.
Here is what Sports On Earth had to say about the rivalry;
Here we have yet another left-on-left divisional rivalry, though it may not stay that way for long if the Phillies deal Hamels, as rumored. Don’t expect Hamels to be headed to Washington, though. The Nationals, um, don’t exactly like him. (Also, they’re loaded with more starting pitchers than any team in baseball, but the point still stands: Hamels wouldn’t be welcome in D.C.)
Hamels hit Harper in the back during a May 2012 game, and got plunked in the leg by Jordan Zimmermann later in that same contest. Afterward, Hamels was blunt about the incident, telling reporters he hit Harper on purpose — his way of saying, “Welcome to the big leagues.” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo responded to that by calling Hamels “fake tough.”
Harper has had more plate appearances against Hamels than any other pitcher in his young career except Kyle Kendrick (now a member of the Colorado Rockies). In 28 plate appearances against Hamels, Harper has a .320 batting average with eight hits, 1 RBI and two walks. Hamels has struck Harper out four times. Six pitchers have struck out Harper more often, including Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon (5 times) and reliever Antonio Bastardo, who has struck out Harper more times than any other pitcher in baseball (7 times).
Where would you rank Hamels vs. Harper among all-time Phillies batter-pitcher rivalries?