CINCINNATI – So many so-called rivalries in professional sports exist more in the minds of fans and media than those participating in the games. At the end of the day, everyone from both sides are friends again and part of the same brotherhood of professional athletes.
However, the rivalry between the Pirates and Reds is not contrived and hasn’t been since it first started to heat up in the early part of the decade. The players, managers and coaches truly don’t like each other. In fact, there is a good bit of hatred mixed in.
That was never more evident than Tuesday night in the ninth inning of the Pirates’ 11-4 rout of the Reds at Great American Ball Park that ended their season-worst nine-game losing streak.
A brawl erupted between the two teams and it wasn’t the typical baseball melee in which players mill around and do a whole bunch of nothing. There were punches thrown, bodies on the ground and, eventually, five players ejected. And there was the threat of more of the same to come.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it sparks up again,” Joe Musgrove said. “We don’t like what happened tonight and the way they acted.”
Musgrove had more to say:
The sides won’t have a lot of time to cool down as they play again at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday to close out the three-game series. That will mark the last time the teams meet in Cincinnati this year.
However, the Reds make two more trips to Pittsburgh for three-game series’ from Aug. 23-25, then Sept. 27-29 to end the season.
Reds manager David Bell made it clear that Tuesday night’s fight won’t be forgotten anytime soon, saying “something has to be done to take care of the situation.” He felt the Pirates started the problems in the seventh when Keone Kela threw the first pitch of the inning up and in on Derek Dietrich.
Dietrich, of course, angered the Pirates back on April 7 at PNC Park when he hit a long home run off Chris Archer and stood at home plate admiring his blast. The next time Dietrich batted, Archer threw a pitch behind him that caused both benches to clear.
Conversely, the Pirates thought Tuesday’s situation was over when Jared Hughes hit Starling Marte on the left hip with the first pitch of the ninth inning and was immediately ejected. The umpires had issued warnings to both benches in the middle of the seventh inning after Reds first baseman Joey Votto began yelling and motioning at Kela.
More on all that in a bit because the main event came in the top of the ninth, not long after pinch-hitter Jose Osuna belted a three-run home run off left-hander Amir Garrett to stretch the Pirates’ lead to 11-3.
Kevin Newman followed by hitting a grounder to Votto, who flipped the ball to Garrett covering first base. Garrett slapped an unnecessary tag on Newman after the play had already been made, drawing the ire of the Pirates.
Trevor Williams yelled something at Garrett, who responded by charging off the mound and toward the Pirates’ dugout. Williams and Garrett both threw punches at each other that missed but a melee ensued that included Clint Hurdle, a man with two artificial hips, being knocked to the ground on his 62nd birthday by Bell, who came all the way from the Reds’ clubhouse having already been ejected in the eighth inning. Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein emerged from the fracas with visible facial scrapes and bruises.
Here is the full video of the brawl, as aired on Fox Sports Ohio:
The Reds’ and Pirates’ benches have cleared. pic.twitter.com/za8hYc0zuX
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) July 31, 2019
After the umpires finally got things back under control, Williams was ejected along with teammates Chris Archer and Kyle Crick. Garrett and mercurial right fielder Yasiel Puig, who went charging into the pileup much like he did during the kerfuffle at PNC Park nearly four months ago, got the thumb on the Reds’ side.
Adding to the nuttiness is that Puig had been traded to the Indians moments earlier. However, the Reds did not immediately remove him from the game.
Archer, Crick and Williams all jumped over the dugout to meet Garrett.
“It’s one thing to throw at guys or hit them with pitches, but it’s an entirely different thing to charge someone’s dugout,” Crick said to me. “We weren’t going to stand for that. You don’t see it happen very often, but I’m not surprised that it was Amir who did it. I know him. He doesn’t do a very good job of controlling his emotions. He was mad Jose hit a home run off him, it was that simple. Well, I think it’s great that Jose hit a home run in the same inning in which they retaliated against us. That showed a lot of grittiness. The home run was the best retaliation of all.”
Garrett said the entire incident would have been avoided if Kela had not thrown his purpose pitch.
“You know it’s on purpose,” Garrett said. “We have a history with them. You know, it just gets to the point where … nobody’s protecting us. I can’t really tell you much of what happened. I was angry. Today, it wasn’t about baseball. It was about protecting my teammates, protecting this brotherhood. I’m gonna accept any punishment that I have. As a man, I take on that responsibility. I apologize for my actions. It was just in the heat of things.”
Crick echoed Garrett’s sentiments, at least when it came to protecting teammates.
“There’s a camaraderie that develops on any team and you take care of each other,” Crick said. “That’s what we were doing there.”
Kela admitted that his pitch to Dietrich had purpose behind it. That is a refreshing change of pace as about 99.99 percent of pitchers would have claimed the ball slipped out of their hand.
“I’m not going to lie,” Kela told me. “I was sending a message. I didn’t hit him, but I was letting him know I don’t appreciate the way he plays the game.”
Kela also had this to add:
Some of the Reds reportedly don’t like Dietrich’s ways, either, but Votto said he could not let Kela’s pitch go unchecked.
“We understand policing,” Votto said. “I understand that fans in general don’t like it. I understand that the league in general doesn’t like it. But I get it. However, I think there’s a dangerous way to do it, and I think there’s a safer way to do it. Ultimately, Derek’s on my team, and I’d like to think I stand up for my teammates. Today was a good example of all of us standing up for each other.”
Garrett slapping the tag on Newman just escalated the tensions that started earlier in the inning. Hughes walked off the field without arguing when he was ejected, but Garrett came in to relieve and stared down Josh Bell, who was the first batter scheduled to hit against him.
“The first thing he did when he came onto the mound was look at JB and say, ‘F you.’ There’s no denying that. We have video,” Williams said. “He came out, looked at JB and said, ‘F you.’ If he saw one of us say that to one of his guys, I’m sure he’d stand up for his team. These guys are my boys, they’re my team. We go to war with each other every day. I saw my teammate get singled out by him. I always stand up for my teammates.”
There was a lot of standing up for teammates in the final three innings, enough to cover an entire season. While emotions were still running high almost an hour after the game ended, Williams tried to be the voice of reason.
“Were we wrong in the beginning of the game? Of course. Were they in the wrong for retaliating? Maybe not,” Williams said. “The unwritten rules are so gray. How it ended up today was extremely unfortunate. It’s not good for baseball, it’s not good for the fans. It’s not good for anybody. It’s unfortunate how it happened. But when you get 50 alpha males on a field, stuff happens.”
Whether more stuff happens remains to be seen but the conditions certainly seem ripe for more.
• Clay Holmes (10-day IL, triceps)
• Steven Brault (10-day IL, shoulder)
• Gregory Polanco (10-day IL, shoulder)
• Francisco Cervelli (60-day IL, concussion)
• Jameson Taillon (60-day IL, elbow)
• Erik Gonzalez (60-day IL, hamstring)
• Rookie Davis (60-day IL, forearm)
• Lonnie Chisenhall (60-day IL, calf)