The plunking of Russell Martin on Saturday, April 23, by Baltimore pitcher Josh Rupe was enough to fire up the usually stoic Joe Girardi, who was seen pumping his fist in the dugout in response to Brett Gardner’s revenge homer a batter later.
Why so impassioned? Martin was drilled high between the shoulder blades, just below his head, after hitting two home runs in what would end up a 15-3 laugher for the Yankees.
“What happened last night, it’s ugly, it’s unfortunate,” said Girardi in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
O’s skipper Buck Showalter agreed, though he stuck by his pitcher’s claim of innocent intent. Of course he did. That’s his job.
More interestingly, when asked how he might respond should the Yankees retaliate, he told the Baltimore Sun, “We’ll deal with it. It’s self-inflicted.”
That’s a big statement from a manager—a tacit admission to the opposing club that, should they handle their business appropriately, they will have an uncontested free shot available to them the next time the teams meet.
Rupe issued the requisite denial in which he insisted he was attempting nothing more than to pitch inside. Then he took it a step further.
“I know how it looked, and for me and a lot of these guys on this team, I pitch in,” he said in an MLB.com report. “That’s what I do when I’m coming out of the ‘pen. I’ve already given up a home run, and yeah, I was really [ticked] off. But I’m not going to resort to possibly hurting a guy and end his career or anything like that. There’s no reason for me to do that.”
There might even be some truth to the sentiment. Rupe came in with the bases loaded in the eighth, and promptly gave up a grand slam to Alex Rodriguez. He later hit Martin with two outs in the ninth. Any fastball fueled by frustration is bound to get wild, regardless of its intended target. This doesn’t excuse the pitch, of course, or get the Orioles off the hook. And it certainly didn’t change the Yankees’ collective opinion.
Martin, on Rupe’s intent: “Yes—there’s no doubt about it. I want to stay in the lineup, so I’m not going to do anything stupid, but I wouldn’t recommend him doing that again.”
Girardi: “It was right at his head.”
Mark Teixeira: “That’s a heck of a coincidence if it wasn’t intentional. . . . There’s no place for it.”
Teixeira’s opinion holds extra merit, as he went in spikes high against Baltimore infielder Robert Andino in the seventh inning. Andino immediately got up and had words for the baserunner.
It was not Teixeira who was targeted, however, despite coming to bat the following inning with the Yankees ahead, 9-3. (He walked, loading the bases.)
In the series finale the following day, no batters from either team were hit. Perhaps the Yankees’ blowout victory the previous day allowed them to move on. More likely, the combination of a close score on Sunday (the game was tied, 3-3, going into the 11th inning) and proximity to the initial incident was enough to put Girardi off … for the time being.
Still, he made sure to say, “I think it’s important that your players have each others’ backs during a long season. As a team, you have to take care of each other.”
The Yankees visit Baltimore on May 18.