The Orioles say that he did it on purpose. He himself said that the pitch got away. Either way leads to the same conclusion: This is what happens when pitchers pitch angry.
Alek Manoah had just given up back-to-back homers in the fourth inning of Saturday’s game, to Baltimore’s Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart, following earlier homers by Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins. The Blue Jays, preseason favorites to contend for a playoff spot, were in fourth place and had lost five in a row, all within their division. The Orioles are the worst team in the American League, yet somehow were beating Manoah all over the field.
Of course he was pitching angry.
Whether he hit the next batter, Maikel Franco, on purpose is unknown, though that certainly appears to be the case. Either way, he did it with his very next pitch after those home runs, and he did it with a fastball, and he did it with the intent of running the pitch inside. Whether that all amounts to good policy is up for debate, but the 23-year-old rookie clearly had some issues to work through.
Maybe it was because of the HBP, maybe it was because Manoah took the extra step of approaching the plate with arms out, in a what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it pose, but benches quickly emptied. Strangely, each team’s coaching staff—particularly Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who appeared to say something that set off Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde and coach Fredi Gonzalez—ended up at the heart of the escalation.
Once things settled, umpire Roberto Ortiz tossed Manoah. The decision to do so without prior warning allowed Baltimore a chance to respond in kind—there is zero chance that Ortiz will ever reveal whether this was intentional—which did not end up happening. Given Montoyo’s verbal combativeness during the dustup, this actually comes as something of a surprise.
Before Sunday’s game, a cadre of Blue Jays and Orioles—notably Franco (who’d told reporters a day earlier that he believed his plunking was intentional) and Vlad Guerrero—made a point of hugging it out on the field. The game was played without incident.
Is this harkening in a new era of understanding and appreciation? Not likely, but we sure can enjoy it when we see it.
Update, 6-23: MLB agrees that it was intentional. Manoah was suspended for five games.