By Steve Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Washington Nationals on Monday suspended relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon for four games without pay a day after he grabbed teammate Bryce Harper by the neck during a dugout altercation in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The move means Papelbon, acquired from the Phillies in a July trade, has played his last game of the season in a Nationals uniform. The team also said Papelbon dropped his appeal of a separate three-game suspension issued by Major League Baseball for hitting Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles with a pitch last Wednesday.
With just seven games left for the Nationals, a team that entered the season with World Series aspirations but has barely maintained a winning record, the season is over for Papelbon.
Harper, a top contender for National League MVP honors who leads the league in batting average, homers and runs scored, flied out in the eighth inning of Sunday's 12-5 loss to the Phillies. Afterward, Papelbon began shouting at Harper from the dugout. The two exchanged words and Papelbon lunged at his teammate, grabbing Harper's throat and shoving the outfielder back toward the bench.
Teammates pulled the two apart. When Papelbon went out to pitch the ninth inning, the crowd at Nationals Park booed the six-time All-Star. Harper was replaced in the lineup.
"The behavior exhibited by Papelbon yesterday is not acceptable," Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement.
"That is not at all in line with the way our players are expected to conduct themselves, and the Nationals organization will not tolerate it in any way," Rizzo added.
Papelbon's three-game Major League Baseball suspension for hitting Machado began on Monday when the Nationals hosted the Cincinnati Reds. His Nationals' suspension will begin Thursday and last the remainder of the season.
Matt Williams, in his second year as Nationals manager, said he had not seen footage of the Harper altercation until after he met with the media following Sunday's game, which came a day after the Nationals were eliminated from the playoff race.
"I was upset. I was appalled," Williams told reporters on Monday. "It has been a very difficult 24 hours for the organization. We have to get past that. We have to fix it. We have to move forward."
Papelbon, 34, has a 2-2 record with a 3.04 earned-run average and seven saves for the Nationals.
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Will Dunham)