Biertempfel: Pirates no stranger to baseball's 'rogue side'
Beanball battles are a part of baseball. And the Pirates have done their share of sparring over the past couple of seasons.
Last year, it seemed there was tension every time the Pirates played the Reds. In 18 games between the teams, 10 batters were hit by pitches — including Aroldis Chapman's infamous ninth-inning plunking of Andrew McCutchen on Aug. 3 in Cincinnati. Overall in 2012, Pirates batters were hit 51 times, the seventh-highest total in the National League.
This year, Jonathan Sanchez didn't do much during his brief stint with the Pirates. But he did get ejected April 26 in St. Louis for hitting Allen Craig in the first inning. Later in that game, Cardinals starter Lance Lynn nicked Starling Marte in back-to-back at-bats.
Last month, the Mets' Jordany Valdespin flipped his bat and admired a homer he hit off Jose Contreras. The next night, Valdespin pinch hit with two outs and nobody on and — oops! — was smacked on the arm by a pitch from Bryan Morris.
Even with all those batters being buzzed, none of it led to any brawls. Those incidents did not spiral out of control the way things did Tuesday between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Five batters were hit, the Dodgers and D'backs twice cleared the benches for a scrum, and six players were ejected.
“It's not quite like fighting in hockey, but it's a part of baseball that's still on the rogue side to some extent,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I believe there are times when your team has got to stand up and take a stand. There are ways to do that professionally, without going rogue. But, sometimes, maybe rogue is the answer for a team to get out its frustrations.”
The same night the Dodgers and D'backs rumbled, there were four batters hit by pitches in the game between the Pirates and San Francisco Giants. An ejection cooled things down before they could get out of control.
Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole plunked Gregor Blanco in the second inning. In the third, Giants righty Tim Lincecum hit Pedro Alvarez. With two outs and two on in the seventh, Pirates reliever Tony Watson hit Marco Scutaro on the left pinky finger. Scutaro is out indefinitely with a damaged tendon — a huge blow to the Giants' lineup.
When Marte led off the eighth, right-hander George Kontos threw behind him, then came in high and very tight with a fastball. Marte wound up striking out.
“Two times, he missed me,” Marte said. “I know he was trying to hit me. Scutaro got hit by a pitch, so they tried to hit me.”
Kontos missed Marte, but he connected with McCutchen, nailing him squarely on the butt. The next day, though, McCutchen didn't accuse Kontos of headhunting.
“I'm always surprised to get hit by a pitch,” McCutchen said. “I don't ever expect it. If they feel like they needed to do (it), well, then they needed to do it.”
Umpire Wally Bell thought differently, though, and tossed Kontos. Wednesday, the reliever was suspended three games by MLB.
“I don't care if it was intentional or unintentional. It doesn't matter,” McCutchen said. “I got hit. All right. Do you (Giants) feel better about yourselves now? Good. Let's play. All I care about is winning. I'm on base now, and guess what, now I can score.”
The Pirates won the game. The next night, McCutchen collected three hits and three RBI in another victory. Sometimes, not going rogue can be the best plan of attack.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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