The good news from Boston Wednesday: Manny Machado got to play a game against the Red Sox without one pitch sailing anywhere near him other than around the plate. The bad news: Orioles starter Kevin Gausman couldn’t resist opening the second inning by throwing the first pitch at Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts’s hind quarters.
The slightly worse news was home plate umpire Sam Holbrook giving Gausman the ho-heave faster than Gausman’s circa-77 mile an hour curve ball struck Bogaerts. Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph was distinctly unamused, slamming his mask to the plate as he bellowed, with manager Buck Showalter high-tailing it out of the dugout fast to protect his catcher. (Joseph survived to go 1-for-3 before leaving for a pinch hitter in the eighth.)
Really, now: It’s not exactly the thing you wanted most to see, in the third of a four-game set between these two, shall we say, kissing cousins, but did anyone with a freshly-tuned brain cell think the Orioles wouldn’t think about sending the Red Sox a little message at last?
No, we’re not encouraging bean ball wars. But the Orioles heard more than enough chin music since two days after Machado’s hard slide inadvertently spiked Dustin Pedroia—a slide for which Machado apologised right after the game (he’d even bent to assist Pedroia after the play ended) and Pedroia said he knew good and well there was no intent to slice him into quarters on the slide.
I’ll say it again: Two days after that slide soiled the opener at Camden Yards, the Red Sox decided to retaliate, from Eduardo Rodriguez throwing tight to Machado three times (at least one of the pitches looked like the intended target was Machado’s body) and, during Machado’s final at bat of the game and the weekend, Matt Barnes throwing one meant to leave a hole in Machado’s head.
Then, Tuesday night—after Red Sox starter Chris Sale showed a world of class, stepping off the mound to allow Adam Jones to bask in a full-house standing O from those Fenway faithful disgusted over racist hollerings and other doings during Monday’s series opener—Sale showed a world of crass by throwing behind Machado right after Jones’s three-pitch strikeout.
Maybe Sale fumed over Machado’s leisurely trot around the bases Monday night after hitting one clean past the Green Monster seats. And maybe he also fumed that Machado’s slide hadn’t been properly repaid still. Tuesday night plate umpire D.J. Reyburn did nothing but hand down warnings. Wednesday, Holbrook made with the too-fast hook.
No umpire is going to be fool enough to encourage brushbacks and knockdowns, but sensible umpires put them into proper context. The only surprise about Gausman plunking Bogaerts is that anyone would have been surprised that at least one Red Sox batter saw/felt a purpose pitch.
Now, consider this: what Gausman threw at Bogaerts wasn’t exactly a speeding bullet. A car going seventy-seven miles an hour is a little testy on the freeway. A curve ball traveling seventy-seven toward a well-padded (sliding pants beneath the uniform) ballplayer is a comparative pat. Gausman was trying to send a message, not execute the man. The Orioles showed restraint above and beyond the call of sanity by not playing tit-for-tat with the Red Sox sooner.
So, for a change, did the Red Sox Wednesday. Neither starter Drew Pomeranz nor four other Red Sox pitchers—including Barnes, of all people—threw anything resembling a purpose pitch all night. Unless you think they were just playing possum pending a Thursday shootout, credit them for overdue restraint, if nothing much else over these two early-season sets.
About the only way you could possibly call Gausman foolish was when you noted that baseball government had a conference call with the Orioles and the Red Sox before the game and said, essentially, knock it the hell off.
“This hasn’t been a one-incident situation,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, telling reporters about the conference call. “We are looking forward to playing a good, hard brand of baseball and we know that there have been some pitches that got away, and that’s what precipitated the call today.”
Some pitches that got away. That’s like the architects of an ISIS terrorist attack saying some explosives went off by mistake. Himself a former pitcher, Farrell has his did-we-do-that? rap down cold.
Wait until Sale receives the suspension all indications say is likely to come from baseball government soon enough. Will it be like the vintage comedy routine in which an exasperated parent, finally shoved past her final nerve by her wild, crazy children, “turns around, grabs a yardstick. She holds it like a Samurai warrior. She then makes an announcement that the beatings will now begin, by saying, ‘I have had enough of thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis!‘—and these brain-damaged children have the nerve to look surprised!”
By the way, they managed to play a baseball game Wednesday, too. The Red Sox won, 4-2. Jones got himself ejected during the game, too—not because he blew up over yet another burst of Fenway fan racism (though one fan was ejected from the park and banned for life when heard using a racial slur), but because he was miffed over a called strike two in the fifth and, when he went down on a swinging strikeout, flipped his bat and his helmet toward Holbrook.
Machado, in case you were wondering, went 0-for-5 with no apparent reason to lose anything otherwise.
The Red Sox scored once in the second (Bogaerts, aboard after Gausman’s plunk, scoring on Josh Rutledge’s single to left center) and three times in the fourth. (Chris Young: first-pitch RBI double, scoring Bogaerts who opened reaching on a miscue by Oriole shortstop J.J. Hardy; Mitch Moreland: scoring promptly after that as Rutledge grounded out; Pedroia, sacrifice fly.) The Orioles scored twice, both in the sixth, courtesy of a sacrifice fly (Trey Mancini) and an RBI single (Hardy).
Any chance that they’ll wind up this Fenway series without one hitter on either side feeling a pitch on some part of his anatomy or seeing one sail behind him or under him? Or, perhaps, the Fenway Park PA system operator should cue up a vintage hit behind the starting announcement lineups: “Enough is Enough.”