We knew it was coming. Hours after learning that All-Star Paul Goldschmidt was potentially lost for the season with a broken left hand after he was accidentally hit by an Ernesto Frieri pitch on Friday night, just about everybody anticipated the Arizona Diamondbacks would be seeking retaliation against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
It really wasn't a matter of if, but of when and who, and even the latter part was pretty clear if the right opportunity presented itself.
McCutchen is the target because he's the player most equal in talent and importance to Goldschmidt in Pittsburgh's lineup. That's how these unwritten "rules" and "policies" work.
With the Pirates leading by four runs in the ninth inning, the Diamondbacks took their shot. Reliever Randall Delgado fired the first pitch up and in to McCutchen, but wasn't able to clip him. On the next pitch, Delgado made a feeble attempt to mask his intent with a breaking ball away. On the third pitch, he reared back and fired a fastball inside again, this time drilling McCutchen square in the back.
If a bull's-eye had been painted on McCutchen, it would have been a direct hit.
The impact of the pitch sent him to the ground in a mixture of pain and fury. To his credit, he shook off the pain and bottled up the anger, only taking it out on his defenseless bat. Any other reaction or wayward step could have easily set off a bench-clearing situation. However, after the game he was none too pleased with the timing and the location of the pitch.
"They had all game to retaliate. They had the first inning to retaliate. They had the first pitch (of the ninth inning at-bat) to retaliate. They missed. You throw a slider on the second pitch and then you throw up and in on the next pitch. Are you trying to hurt me too? That's the question.
"We understand that retaliation is going to happen in this game. But you know, there's a right way to do it," McCutchen added. "If you're going to hit me, hit me. He hit me square in the spine. If I get hurt, what happens then?"
Despite no previous warnings, home plate umpire Ron Kulpa knew the intent and didn't hesitate tossing Delgado from the game.
It didn't necessarily get ugly, or as ugly as it had the potential to become — keep in mind they play again on Sunday — but it's unfortunate it has to come down to something like this. It's even more unfortunate that this form of senseless retaliation is now expected from the Diamondbacks under Kirk Gibson's watch. It's not a good look, it proves nothing, and as we saw earlier this season against the Milwaukee Brewers, it doesn't help them get any closer to being competitive.
Nobody wanted to see Goldschmidt get hurt. That wasn't the intention of Frieri, who as a pitcher had every right to pitch inside even with a 9-4 lead. Unfortunately, pitches do get away. Every batter should understand that when they step up to the plate. Goldschmidt does. He had no issue brushing it off as a part of the game on Friday.
There was no reason to put McCutchen's health at risk as retaliation for an accident. None.
No matter if it was ordered by the manager, coaching staff or something Delgado elected to do on his own, it's irresponsible, and both parties (player and manager) should pay with a lengthy suspension. It needs to be made clear that situations like this don't make the game better. They make a game that's already dangerous even more so, and for no good reason.
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