You don’t need to go too far back in history to find episodes of bad blood between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Batters getting hit, yelling, fighting, trash talking were all fairly customary when the teams would match up on the diamond.
Yet, it seemed as though tensions cooled last season as the D-backs underwent a change at manager and general manager, and the focus when the two teams played returned to the games themselves.
Tuesday, however, the D-backs’ Nick Ahmed and Jean Segura were hit by pitches, while the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig was also plunked in a 4-2 Arizona win.
The following game, which the Dodgers won 3-1, saw L.A.’s Joc Pederson get hit once and Justin Turner twice, with the second coming in the seventh inning. At that point tempers heated up, and it got to the point where D-backs manager Chip Hale got into a shouting match with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
“I guess their pitching coach didn’t care for their guys getting hit,” Hale said of the heated exchange. “It was OK yesterday when our two guys got hit in the wrist, but tonight it wasn’t right — even though the last pitch Barrett threw was a slider. Pitching in is part of the game, we know that, but I’m not going to allow anybody from the other team to yell toward my dugout — whoever he’s yelling at — it’s not acceptable.”
Hale, of course, was sticking up for his players, as any good manager would.
Derrick Hall, the D-backs’ president, saw it all and is a little concerned with the number of hit batters this series. He said he’s not sure if anything that has transpired has been retaliatory of nature, but it’s something that you have to worry about.
“I actually don’t think so, but you’ve got to worry,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday morning. “And in this day in age there’s a lot of talk of pitching in and we’re trying to do that, and that’s why we’re hitting guys too.
“I can tell you it’s not intentional.”
Entering play Thursday the Diamondbacks actually lead baseball in pitchers hitting opposing batters, with nine hit by pitches, and are tied for seventh in their own batters getting hit, with four.
But while those stats may jump out a bit, there are two important things to remember: one, it’s still very early in the season, and two, players getting hit by pitches is a part of the game, albeit one that can have dramatic consequences.
Hall pointed to how the D-backs have lost key players like A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt for a significant amount of time due to them being hit by pitches, so he understands the danger that comes when a pitch goes too far inside.
But at the same time, for a pitcher the risk of not pitching inside is leaving a ball too far out over the plate, which could then lead to a different kind of trouble.
So while no one was necessarily trying to hit anyone Wednesday night, the risk D-backs pitchers are taking is not unlike the one every pitcher in baseball does when they try to claim the inside part of the plate. Furthermore, if a pitcher is intentionally trying to hit a batter, they won’t normally throw a breaking ball, as Jake Barrett did when he hit Turner in the seventh.
That’s why, in terms of things to be upset about, Hale and even Hall believe the Dodgers were out of line.
“You don’t intentionally hit somebody with an off-speed pitch, that’s baseball,” he said. “If you’re going to hit somebody, you’re going to hit them with a fastball, usually, in the middle of the back. But that’s not what happened here.”
The final game of the series is Thursday night, and including that matchup the teams will play 17 more times this season, with seven of those affairs taking place in Dodger Stadium. Hall said Wednesday night’s game was a weird one, which seems to happen whenever the D-backs play in Los Angeles.
“It’s an odd matchup, us and the Dodgers, because there is that animosity and the rivalry is there now, I think it’s stronger than it’s ever been,” he said. “And I think we’re watching; I think umpires are watching, too. If you’re going to hit guys there’s going to be warnings, or there should be warnings, and I think everybody’s on alert.”