In baseball, it’s not difficult to determine what constitutes a retaliation-worthy offense, and what does not. Intent behind that HBP? Retaliate away. Nobody should say a word.
On Tuesday, however, Reds reliever Sam LeCure apparently didn’t care for the fact that Joey Votto was drilled in the backside by San Francisco’s Dan Otero during what would become a six-run inning. What he failed to consider: Otero is a rookie with all of 6.2 innings to his name this season, and was in the midst of a full-throated meltdown—all six runs were his, in fewer than two innings—that saw his ERA rise from 2.70 to 8.64. The guy was clearly not hitting his marks.
Which didn’t keep LeCure from putting a ball behind Buster Posey’s knee in the ninth.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was seen to mouth the words, “That’s fucking bullshit” in the dugout, and was more than happy to expound on that theme after the game.
“The kid (Otero) has got two weeks in the big-leagues,” he told the press. “He’s trying to get through an inning. He’s trying to survive. He’s not trying to hit anybody. He was scuffling out there. I’m sure he was nervous. . . . That’s how people get hurt. Here’s a guy (Posey) we lost for a long time last year and he gets a ball thrown at his kneecap.”
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle had an interesting take on LeCure’s rationale, going back to Daniel Hudson’s preseason proclamation that Arizona pitchers would no longer tolerate shots at their teammates:
During spring training, Arizonastarter Daniel Hudson articulated a warning to all the pitchers in the National League. Justin Upton is the Diamondbacks’ best player and he was hit by 19 pitches last year, most in the National League. So Hudson made it clear that if Upton continued to get hit, the Diamondbacks would retaliate.
I get that. I also get that sometimes it’s OK for a team to retaliate for a hit batter even if it was accidental, if it keeps happening over and over. At some point, the batter’s team needs to show it will not let opponents continue to use a guy as a dartboard, and there will be consequences.
Thus, when Reds reliever Sam LeCure threw behind Buster Posey in the ninth inning of tonight’s 9-2 Reds win, in obvious retaliation for Dan Otero’s equally obvious accidental drilling of Joey Votto in the seventh, I initially thought it was OK. I figured Votto had been a target lately and LeCure was just doing with the baseball what Hudson did with his language in spring training. So I grabbed the stat sheet to see how many times Votto had been hit this season.
The part that makes the least sense is that the Giants’ leadoff batter the following inning was none other than Dan Otero (who was left in to mop up what was by then a hopeless game). Holding an eight-run lead, Reds reliever Jose Arredondo proceeded to strike him out. That was Cincinnati’s best—and some would say, only, as far as justification is concerned—shot at retaliation. That it took another inning and a different pitcher to get it done speaks to darker things. There’s a chance that Arredondo was influenced by Reds starter Matt Latos—so outspoken in his dislike of the Giants that before the game he handed a ball to the Cincinnati broadcasters inscribed with the phrase, “I hate the Giants.” (Latos and San Francisco built up no shortage of animosity in 2010, when the right-hander pitched for San Diego.)
The dugouts were warned, after which Posey got the best kind of revenge: He hit a two-run homer that ended Cincinnati’s bid for a shutout.
Teams play again today. Stay tuned.