play hardball with someone
play hardball (with one)
To be ruthless, aggressive, or harsh (with one) in order to achieve a certain result, especially compared to previous, less aggressive tactics. I think it's time we play hardball with the suspect—he's not going to talk otherwise. We're prepared to play hardball with the company if it means we'll be paid the appropriate amount for our work.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
play hardball (with someone)
tv. to act strong and aggressive about an issue with someone. Things are getting a little tough. The president has decided to play hardball on this issue.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.