CHICAGO (AP)—Derrek Lee saw the pitch and was sure it was aimed at his head. He got out of the way the best he could. The ball clipped the back of his left hand, and sent him sprawling to the ground.
Walked slowly to first, he had words with San Diego pitcher Chris Young. He got a response he didn’t like and took at swing at the right-hander.
Young swung back and a melee ensued Saturday, almost overshadowing a splendid pitching performance. Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano lost his no-hitter in the eighth and the game in the ninth, when Russell Branyan’s solo homer gave the Padres an emotional 1-0 win.
“I really don’t mind getting hit, but when it’s at my head, I feel like it threatened my health,” the normally mild-mannered Lee said. “I don’t know what his intent was, but it was at my head and he said some things to me I didn’t like. It just escalated.”
Lee, Young, Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry and Padres pitcher Jake Peavy were all ejected.
“I will say this, I didn’t throw at him and that’s as far as I’ll go,” said Young, who didn’t allow a hit in his three-plus innings before he was tossed. “I didn’t try to hit him. It had nothing to do with anything in the past. I was just trying to throw a pitch inside. It got away and hit him.”
Both benches emptied, resulting in pushing and shoving in a scrum as Lee and Young were held back. Several players fell to the ground before order was restored.
Zambrano, who’d fought teammate Michael Barrett on June 1, was in the Cubs clubhouse when the skirmish erupted Saturday, changing his jersey. He rushed to the field, saying he wanted to separate people.
“Thank God, nobody was hurt,” he said.
The Padres were not happy Friday after Alfonso Soriano homered off David Wells, stopped at the plate to admire the ball and then started his home run trot with a few steps backward. Peavy was very critical of Soriano’s antics.
“If it happened yesterday they have to hit me, not Derrek Lee,” Soriano said Saturday. “I don’t know if he (Young) did it on purpose. If he did it on purpose, they hit the wrong guy.”
Crew chief Gerry Davis said the umpires were aware of the Padres’ feelings about Soriano’s home run antics.
“We didn’t feel that Young’s pitch was intentional, but after that because of the melee obviously we issued warnings after that,” Davis said.
Zambrano (7-6) gave up two hits but the Cubs managed only two hits, as well, off relievers Justin Hampson, Heath Bell (1-2) and Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman pitched the ninth for his 19th save in 21 chances.
Marcus Giles hit a chopper that bounded high over the mound and went off Zambrano’s glove for an infield single with one out in the eighth, ending the no-hit bid. The Cubs then turned their third double play to end the inning.
“If I keep my glove to catch the ball I catch it, but I went like ‘Oh, too late’ and the ball hit my glove,” Zambrano said.
Giles had also played peacemaker during the brawl, keeping Young from getting back in the fray after it broke out.
“I’m not blaming either guy. It’s heat of the moment,” Giles said. “D-Lee just reacted. I’m not saying D-Lee was wrong and I’m not saying Chris was wrong.”
Branyan connected on a 3-2 pitch to left center in the ninth for his fifth homer. Zambrano thought he’d slipped a third strike by him earlier.
“The guy was dominant all day. I was just hoping he could make a mistake or something, but I think the pitch I hit was a good pitch,” Branyan said.
Zambrano made a great play in the seventh.
With one out, Hiram Bocachica hit a slow bouncer to the left of the mound. Zambrano, known for his athleticism at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, bounded off the mound, grabbed the ball with his bare hand and while falling backwards threw to first for the out.
The Cubs threatened in the fifth as Ryan Theriot doubled and stole third but was out trying to score on Zambrano’s fly ball as Padres center fielder Bocachica made a great throw to the plate.
The Cubs lost the game Saturday and now Lee faces a potential suspension.
“I just wish it didn’t happen. I don’t want to miss any games,” Lee said.
“I don’t condone fighting. I don’t like to fight. Obviously I lost my temper and it’s unfortunate. You don’t want it to happen.”
For the third straight game since the fight with Barrett, Zambrano’s catcher was Koyie Hill. … Moments after Branyan’s homer, a rain began to fall at Wrigley Field with the sun still shining. Then it cleared up just as quickly. … The Padres have now pitched 11 shutouts this season.