Clayton Kershaw, Don Mattingly, Mound Conference Etiquette, Retaliation, Unwritten-Rules

Kershaw Upholds Unwritten Rule While Mattingly Breaks Written One

A nearly unprecedented comingling of rules both written and unwritten descended upon Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, as inside pitches inspired retaliatory strikes, one pitcher was ejected for drilling an opponent and another was tossed because his manager mucked up the rulebook.

It all might have started in April, at least according to Dodgers manager Joe Torre. That was when Los Angeles head-hunter Vicente Padilla broke Aaron Rowand’s cheek with a fastball, knocking him out of action for more than two weeks.

Thus, when Tim Lincecum knocked Matt Kemp down with an inside pitch on Tuesday, and followed that up by drilling him, it was easy to draw conclusions about retaliation. (Kemp certainly did, taking several steps toward the mound before being redirected by umpire Adrian Johnson.)

Never mind that Lincecum had a chance to respond as the Giants starter the day after Padilla’s deed, more than three months ago, or that the Giants have faced the Dodgers six times since the incident without drilling anybody.

There’s also the fact that Lincecum was unusually terrible, lasting just 4 2/3 innings, missing the strike zone on seven of his first eight pitches, giving up five runs and throwing about the worst pitch humanly possible.

Still, when Giants reliever Denny Bautista twice came well inside to Russell Martin in the sixth, the Dodgers took it extremely personally. (Bench coach Bob Schaefer was ejected for the vociferous nature of his protestations.)

Despite a warning leveled by Johnson after Lincecum plunked Kemp, Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw drilled the next batter he faced, Rowand, in the hip, earning ejections for himself and Torre. (Watch the chain of events here.)

“When Kemp took a few steps toward Timmy, that made no sense because obviously Tim was struggling and wasn’t trying to hit him,” wrote Giants outfielder Aubrey Huff on his blog. “We were all a little jumpy right there, waiting to see what was going to happen. And Bautista definitely wasn’t trying to hit Russell Martin. . . . Now, I imagine, it’s all over and done with. They got their retaliation shot in, and that’s it.”

(Kershaw received a five-game suspension for his actions, while Torre and Schaefer were docked a game each.)

This left Dodgers coach Don Mattingly in charge of the team.

Los Angeles closer Jonathan Broxton came on in the ninth to protect a 5-4 lead, and promptly loaded the bases with one out. Mattingly visited the mound to inform members of the infield where he wanted them positioned. After he turned to leave, however, first baseman James Loney asked another question. Mattingly returned to address it, before heading to the dugout. (Watch it here.)

The issue: This constituted two visits, something not allowed in the same inning under rule 8.06 of the Official Baseball Rules, which stipulates that a mound visit begins when a manager or coach crosses the foul line, and ends when he departs from the 18-foot diameter of the mound.

“I really just went out to let the infield know we were going to play back,” said Mattingly in the Los Angeles Times. “[Hitter Andres] Torres could run. And the corners were basically pretty much going home. After I did that, I turned to walk away and James [Loney] said something, and I kind of turned around. I didn’t realize I was even off the dirt, but obviously I was.’’

Umpire Johnson shouted, “No, no, no. You can’t go back,” and Giants manager Bruce Bochy pounced. The umpires informed Mattingly that according to the rulebook, Broxton would have to leave the game. That left George Sherrill, having not received adequate time to warm up, to enter the game virtually cold.

He promptly gave up a two-run double to Torres that proved to be the difference in the game.

The umpires could have afforded Sherrill as many warm-up tosses as he wanted, but had the power to cut him off after eight—which they did. It was a detrimental decision from the Dodgers’ point of view, but at least it hewed to the rulebook.

Ejecting Broxton: not so much.

Rule 8.06 was codified in 1967, in an effort to minimize mound visits and speed up games. Because relief pitchers must face at least one hitter per appearance, an adjunct to the rule keeps managers from circumventing it by using back-to-back mound visits to remove a pitcher and improve matchup possibilities. It does this by stating that the manager will be ejected for the action, as will the pitcher, but only after he faces the guy at the plate.

(The umps should not even have ejected Mattingly, writes Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, because they didn’t adequately warn him against a second visit, as stipulated by the rules.)

Bochy knew about all of this, having invoked the rule in 2006 as manager of the Padres (also against Los Angeles). That time it was properly carried out, with Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny remaining in the game to face the hitter.

“I think that’s the craziest win we’ve had all season,” said Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who picked up the save, in the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m sure we’ll put our heads on our pillows and smile.”

As will those of us who pay attention to this kind of thing. The written rules managed to bite the Dodgers on Tuesday; the teams next meet in San Francisco on July 30, at which point we’ll see if there’s a need for rules of the unwritten variety.

– Jason