So the Cubs beat the Cardinals Friday and Saturday but wait, there’s more.
Friday, in the 5th inning, Matt Holliday was hit in the head by a Dan Haren breaking pitch that got away from the veteran starter. The pitch bounced off Holliday’s helmet, and tempers barely rose. Holliday slowly walked down the line, touched the base and exited. Remember, this was always the plan. Holliday was never going to stay in the game. He’s still got a gimpy leg. The effect of this HBP would reverberate throughout the game. Like the night you are lazy and eat McDonald’s because there’s nothing else open but you feel it right afterwards. Part of me wanted Holliday to pull an Avengers and hulk slam Haren like the big green fella did Loki, but that’s just the movie addict in me.
This came after Tyler Lyons hit Anthony Rizzo in the fourth inning. Clearly not intentional and Rizzo hovers the plate anyway. However…
In the 8th inning, Cards pitcher Matt Belisle threw a pitch behind Anthony Rizzo that barely brushed his calf, but the young first baseman reacted differently than Holliday and took a step towards the mound. This is baseball, land of the shoving contests and hard stares, so there was never going to be a real fight. Belisle was kicked out due to the warnings given by umpires after the Holliday HBP, and Mike Matheny was also sent packing. Enough, right? No, after the game Joe Maddon unleashed a tirade that included rewriting books on late game strategy and noted that the Cards “started this but we will finish it”. I really think Joe likes to hear himself talk but that’s just me.
Lost control or not, Haren hit Holliday in the head. As Tony La Russa would say, get better control of your pitches or go play softball. Rizzo gets grazed in the leg and he’s mad about it. Please. I am surprised Rizzo actually got out of the way of a pitch because if it helps his on base percentage, it’ll let anything touch him. Point being, whether the pitch was on purpose, there’s no reason to get up in a frenzy about it. It’s baseball folks. That’s all. The Cards retaliated in the least harmful way possible. Was it right? No. Did Maddon need to treat this game like the Art of War declaration? No.
In Saturday’s game, three Cardinal batters were hit. Kolten Wong was hit twice, one on a pitch up and in. Joe Maddon and his pitcher were ejected in the 9th inning. After Maddon’s big speech on Friday evening after the game, how does he justify his pitchers plunking three Cardinals the next day. Were the HBP on purpose? No. Will we ever know for sure? No. Pitchers are paid to throw baseball at a high velocity towards the plate and establish a zone that hitters have a hard time touching. Faulty results are common. This weekend has proved not only has the rivalry returned but foolhardy hijinks have followed as well. It’s all kind of unneeded.
For all the Matheny haters and critics out there, have you seen how cool and collected he has been while Maddon has acted like a hungry child? Take notes if you will.
Here’s what I don’t like. The umpires warning the benches so early after supposed unintentional hit by pitch incidents. If it was clearly not on purpose, why warn them? The rest of the game, each team is put on edge and anything inside becomes suspect to ejection of players and cool tempers. It’s comical. The Holliday head shot was unfortunate and 99% unintentional, but why issue a warning? Nothing is more ridiculous in baseball than the under-cooked bench warnings.
This sets up a hot and contested finale on Sunday that was already carrying juice Friday morning. At the very least, this sets the burner on this previously dead rivalry to medium high. The Cubs haven’t had someone that was this outspoken since Dusty Baker and we all know how those Septembers played out. While the Maddon speech was a bit over the top, it did signify that these two teams don’t like each other all that much and this historically prevalent rivalry has got its legs back.
You know what they say about Wrigley action in September? To quote the late and great Joaquin Andujar, “you never know”. Welcome to the end of a long tired season. You can act like a manager whose team has looked up at the Cardinals for 5 straight seasons or you can stay calm and cool like Matheny and know that as long as the Cards avoid a sweep Sunday, the series wasn’t botched.
Where do you stand on this HBP infused rivalry?