WASHINGTON -- The Cubs were swept Thursday night while the Nationals continued their offensive barrage, but flared tempers took center stage in Chicago's 9-2 loss at Nationals Park.
With the Nats leading, 7-2, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Ian Desmond walked with one out and then stole second base with Danny Espinosa at the plate. Espinosa singled, and two batters later, he also stole second. After Nats starter Jordan Zimmermann walked, Jayson Werth worked a 3-0 count before electing to swing. Between the two stolen bases and Werth swinging on the 3-0 count, the Cubs seemingly had several reasons to be frustrated.
Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk was seen yelling from the dugout, and Nats third-base coach Bo Porter jawed with Chicago's dugout after Werth faced a 3-1 count.
Quirk's reasons for yelling were not immediately clear, but Porter ended up walking over to the top step of the Cubs' dugout, sending both bullpens running out onto the field and also emptying the Nats' dugout. At the time, only Quirk was ejected.
"Quirk was ejected for screaming out obscenities to [Porter]," crew chief and home-plate umpire Jerry Layne said. "The fracas was started because all that stuff that happened that was instigated by Quirk screaming out at Porter. And the obscenities that he screamed out I just felt was inappropriate and that's what caused everything."
Layne added that Porter wasn't ejected since Quirk was the instigator, but he would have been tossed had he fully entered the Cubs' dugout.
"When it comes to our players, I'm pretty passionate about it," Porter said. "Every time you start the game, there are two teams out there. When I was younger, I did Gold Glove boxing and my trainer would always tell me before the bell rings, just in case you didn't know, when this bell rings, he is going to hit back."
The Nats were unable to score in the inning, but in the bottom of the sixth, Cubs reliever Lendy Castillo's first pitch to Bryce Harper was inside. Harper took issue with the pitch and started yelling at Castillo before Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger jumped in front of him. Soon, all benches and bullpens had cleared again, this time escalating into a full-blown fracas.
Clevenger was ejected once it all cleared, and Welington Castillo took over behind the plate. Cubs right-hander Manuel Corpas and Nationals left-hander Mike Gonzalez were also tossed.
"You know, you're up 7-2, Lendy Castillo's pitching," Clevenger said. "It's 3-0, you don't swing 3-0 in that situation. But things happen."
Clevenger and Cubs manager Dale Sveum both denied Castillo was intentionally throwing at Harper.
"Castillo's a Rule 5 [Draft] kid who's thrown a lot of [those kind of] pitches," Sveum said. "There was no intention to hit Bryce Harper or anything because of what happened. There was nothing intentional. We're not going to hit their players for no reason. There was no reason to hit anybody."
During it all, the Cubs dropped their sixth straight game while falling to 31 1/2 games behind the Reds in the National League Central. The Nats, meanwhile, won their fifth in a row to stay 7 1/2 games up on the Braves in the NL East.
Justin Germano lost his fourth straight start and allowed seven runs (six earned) on seven hits. The Cubs did manage to score first on Anthony Rizzo's 12th home run of the season, a solo shot with two outs in the first inning. The Nats responded in the bottom of the frame, as Harper tripled with one out. Ryan Zimmerman then knocked a slow grounder back to Germano, but after he tossed the ball over to first base, Harper took off for home and scored easily.
"I had the Yankees atop my list as the best lineup in the league, but I think [the Nats] gave them a run for their money," Germano said. "They've got a lot of right-handed power and they don't miss mistakes."
Starlin Castro led off the second with a triple and scored three batters later once Darwin Barney added his own triple. But that was the last lead the Cubs would hold all night, as the Nats added three more runs on Kurt Suzuki's homer to left field. The blast followed an Ian Desmond double and Danny Espinosa getting hit by a pitch.
The Nats added three more runs in the fourth, as Suzuki hit a one-out single and was bunted over to second by Zimmermann. After Werth walked, Castro made a poor throw on a grounder by Harper, allowing Werth to reach third and Harper to advance to second. Suzuki scored on the play, and Werth and Harper followed on a single by Zimmerman.
"It's probably one of the biggest butt-whoopings I've ever gotten in my career, as a coach or player," Sveum said of the series. "I don't remember getting manhandled that bad, in any kind of series I've ever been a part of."
For the Nats, Zimmermann tossed a much-needed gem after his up-and-down April. The right-hander threw seven innings of two-run, five-hit ball while striking out nine and walking only one.
While the deflation of the loss and the sweep was evident, several Cubs saw the game's events as a sort of coming-together for a struggling squad.
"We've got to all pull for each other, or else it's going to be a long 25 more games," Rizzo said. "We're going to build momentum and get better. This is a lot of opportunity for everyone in here, including myself, to show everyone."
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.