ATLANTA -- More than 3 1/2 hours after the first ejection of his career, Joe Musgrove was still bewildered by it.
In one of the strangest ejections in the Pirates' recent history, Musgrove was tossed after grazing Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson with a pitch with two outs in the first inning Monday night at SunTrust Park. Donaldson yelled at Musgrove and the right-hander reciprocated. Both benches emptied and home plate umpire Brian Gorman ejected both players and Clint Hurdle.
Gorman told a pool reporter Musgrove was ejected because of his “aggressive actions” in throwing down his cap and glove.
“After Donaldson was walking to first base, he started popping off,” Gorman said. “The pitcher started barking back at him, threw his glove down, threw his hat down, wanted to fight. We got the aggressors of the fight, and they got ejected.”
Here is how the incident went down:
The rickety bullpen collapsed under the weight of having to pitch 7 1/3 innings and the Braves went on a 13-7 victory in the opener of a four-game series.
I asked Musgrove if he was surprised to get the thumb and he minced no words.
“It caught me completely by surprise,” the right-hander said. “I don’t know what else I could have done in that situation to make it any better. I’m a grown man, dude. If you’re going to come after me, then I’m going to stand my ground and be ready to fight. I’m not going to run away and hide. I’m going to stand my ground and, if he wants to go at it, we’ll go at it.”
Musgrove beat the Braves last Wednesday at PNC Park, pitching into the ninth inning without incident. He also has no history of acrimony with Donaldson.
The only physical contact that appeared to take place during the shouting match came when Donaldson pushed Elias Diaz, who was trying to be a peacekeeper.
“He tried to stare me down and get big with me, and I stood my ground and gave it back to him.,” Musgrove said. “There's just no need for it. If anything, I think he should be the one (ejected) but I don’t think anybody should have been ejected. There was no need for anyone to be ejected. If you don’t like getting pitched inside and getting hit, then sit the bench. I’m not trying to hit him there. I feel confident in my ability to get him out there. The last thing I want to do is give him a free base.”
“I wasn’t really upset about the pitch. It barely clipped me,” Donaldson said. “But most of the time, if somebody hits you, they’re not ... I felt like he came down the mound. I looked away to try to give him a chance to look away from me. He kept coming down the mound and looking at me. Obviously, he had a problem with me."
Because Musgrove threw just 18 pitches while facing four batters, he will start again Thursday in the finale of the four-game series. The Pirates had been undecided on a starter for that game after placing Jordan Lyles on the injured list earlier Monday with left hamstring tightness. That solves one problem but creates another one as they now need to find a starter for Saturday in Miami, when Musgrove was next scheduled to pitch. The Pirates also have not announced a starter for Wednesday, though it is very likely Mitch Keller will be recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis.
“It’s nice to go on Thursday, but it’s not just my start that got ruined tonight,” Musgrove said. “I only get 32 of them in a year and that’s one of them. Not only do we lose a starter, but it puts 7 1/3 innings on our bullpen at the beginning of a four-game series with three games in Miami after that with no days off. Guys are going to get sent down and lose money and lose their jobs and that really sucks. I think Major League Baseball’s got to do a better job of monitoring that and making these decisions because it really cost us tonight, not only me but the whole team”
Alex McRae relieved Musgrove and pitched 4 1/3 innings. However, the rookie right-hander was tagged for eight runs, six earned. Geoff Hartlieb followed and gave up two runs in two innings. Montana DuRapau, the last Pirates pitcher, was tagged for three runs in one inning. The Braves hit five home runs, including two by second baseman Ozzie Albies and a grand slam by Ronald Acuna Jr.
The Pirates’ bullpen was already overtaxed from a weekend sweep by the Brewers in Milwaukee in which Lyles and Rookie Davis pitched just three innings each in their starts.
“The collateral damage that comes from it, there’s a lot of it, a lot of it,” Hurdle said of Musgrove’s ejection. “You’ve got a starting pitcher that’s prepared for it for four days and poured everything into it then 18 pitches into it, you’re put in timeout and have to leave. You don’t have many options at that point. You need somebody to go out and take the bulk and body of work regardless of the result. McRae went out tonight and gave us everything he got. Unfortunately, he gave up (six) earned runs on 95 pitches, then unfortunately, everyone else who came in gave up runs as well.”
While the relievers were getting torched, Musgrove went through a full workout to prepare for his start Thursday. First, he needed a good while to calm down.
“The first 30 minutes, I was in a blackout rage,” he said.
My five thoughts on the game can be found here.
• Trevor Williams, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with a right side strain. He is expected to make a rehab start Thursday for Class AAA Indianapolis.
• Francisco Cervelli, catcher, is on the seven-day concussion IL and won't rejoin the team on this trip.
• Jameson Taillon, right-hander, is on the 60-day IL with a right elbow flexor tendon strain and is rehabbing in Bradenton, Fla.
• Keone Kela, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation and is rehabbing in Bradenton.
• Chris Stratton, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right side discomfort. He is expected to join Indianapolis soon for a rehab stint.
• Rookie Davis, right-hander, is on the 10-day DL with a right middle finger blister.
• Erik Gonzalez, shortstop, is on the 60-day IL with a left clavicle fracture.
• Nick Burdi, relief pitcher, is on the 60-day IL with right elbow/pain caused by a nerve problem and is rehabbing in Bradenton.
• Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder, is on the 60-day IL with a left calf strain and is currently rehabbing at his home in North Carolina.
The second game of the four-game series is set for 7:20 p.m. with Chris Archer (3-5, 5.20) facing Mike Foltynewicz (1-5, 5.89). These two starters faced each other on June 6, a 6-1 Pirates victory. Archer has won his last two starts, allowing five runs in 13 innings. Foltynewicz has lost his last two starts, giving up eight runs in 11 innings. I will be on the coverage as the clubhouse opens at 3:50 p,m.
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