Manny Machado being at the center of controversy once again was the story of the Baltimore Orioles’ loss to Boston yesterday. In fact, the game itself wasn’t very memorable from either Boston’s or the Orioles’ standpoint. But what happened at the end of it was, and will probably be a hot topic all day and perhaps all week.
But because I like to be precise, the Orioles did fall yesterday, 6-2. Kevin Gausman suffered another lackluster outing, although he looked slightly better than he did in his last start in Cincinnati. Guasman’s line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 K. Eight pitches into the game, it was already 4-0. Betts smacked a three-run homer in the first, followed by a solo shot by Ramirez.
Moreland would add a two-run home run for Boston in the fifth, and later in that inning Benintendi smacked an RBI-single – and was thrown out trying to extend it into a double to end the inning. However Oriole bats were quiet all day, mustering only one hit against Boston starter and former Orioles’ prospect Rodriguez.
Following the aforementioned incident, Manny Machado would smack an RBI-double in the last of the eighth. And the Birds actually had the tying run in the on-deck circle in the ninth following a Kim RBI-single. However it wasn’t to be, the Birds fell by the above-mentioned score of 6-2.
But again, that wasn’t the story of the game yesterday. When Machado came up to bat in the eighth inning with a runner on second, Boston reliever Matt Barnes threw a pitch towards Machado’s head area. Initially the play was ruled a hit batsman, however eventually the umpires reversed that call, and rightfully so. The ball clearly smacked off of the top of Machado’s bat before hitting him. As soon as the ball hits the bat, the play is dead and it’s a foul ball.
However that doesn’t excuse what Barnes did. As soon as the incident happened, he was ejected by the home plate umpire. Contrary to what several Boston writers were tweeting at the time, yes you can be tossed for not even hitting a guy – if the umpire feels there was malicious intent, you can go.
There’s no doubt that this was “retaliation” for the incident on Friday night with Machado and Dustin Pedroia…who incidentally was nothing but class about the whole thing. He seemed to be the one guy who understood that while it was unfortunate, what Machado did wasn’t intentional.
That aside, I try to simply report the news and sometimes offer a slightly vanilla opinion on it. As a writer, I feel it’s not necessarily my place to call someone out in a sense. But in this case I’m going to come out and say that what Barnes did was GUTLESS. Again, withstanding the fact that in my view and in the view of many (including Pedroia) the Machado slide was clean, I have no issue with a team wanting to hit someone for something like that. But there’s a right way and a wrong way. Hit them in the thigh, foot, back, etc. But DON’T EVER throw at someone’s head. That jeapardizes someone’s career, and yes perhaps even their life.
Both Barnes and Boston manager John Farrell predictably said after the game that the pitch slipped. Ironically, I might tend to agree in a way. I don’t think that Barnes purposely targeted Machado’s head. But I think that he definitely wanted to hit him, and he missed his spot. Farrell tried to hide behind the fact that he was simply pitching him up and in (quote coutesy of Darren Hartwell, NESN):
It’s a dangerous pitch. No one likes to see it. But if you look at the attack plan of our right-handed pitchers, there’s an area in above the hands that you’re trying to go to. And unfortunately, it does get away from (Barnes) in that spot.
However the fact that the catcher sets up right down the middle and has to go way up and in so as to try to catch the ball indicates otherwise. MASN cameras also caught Pedroia in the dugout yelling out at Machado indicating that the pitch didn’t come from him. After the game, Pedroia (again who’s always been the epitome of class) said that he felt his own team handled it poorly, and he apologized to Machado and the Orioles. When your own team leader and de facto captain is saying that, it’s pretty incriminating.
Buck Showalter wasn’t about to get involved in a tet-a-tet of words after the game, but he did indicate that the Oriole players weren’t really happy with what happened (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):
It’s two good teams competing for something that a lot of teams really want and they have the passion, and when things like that get going into it, that’s unfortunate. I was really impressed with the courage that our guys showed today because they all, believe me, trust me, wanted to do something about it. Takes a lot more sometimes to do that.
MLB is looking into the matter, as well as into several pitches that were well inside that starter Rodriguez threw towards Machado earlier in the game. I’ll be honest, I would argue that it would be unfair to discipline Rodriguez for anything. My personal opinion was that he didn’t have any intent to hit Machado. Barnes is a different story. He should receive a five-game suspension at least – if not ten.
Weather permitting, the Orioles open up a three-game set with Tampa at Camden Yards this evening. Ubaldo Jimenez takes to the mound or the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.