ATLANTA -- Though nothing more than some heated words and shoves were exchanged, the Braves certainly came out on the better side of the benches-clearing incident that led to Josh Donaldson and Pirates starter Joe Musgrove being ejected during the first inning of Atlanta’s 13-7 win on Monday night at SunTrust Park.
“We’re a team that always seems to be in the middle of situations that come this way,” Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. “There will be a lot of people that will say what goes around comes around. However, each case is different.”
This wasn’t anything like any of the incidents the Pirates have shared with the National League Central rival Reds over the past few years. Really there was no prior history between Donaldson and Musgrove. They’d seen each other last week, when Musgrove carried a shutout bid into the ninth inning of what was a dominant start.
But, there was no reason to anticipate tempers would flare like they did when Musgrove nicked Donaldson’s jersey with a 94-mph first-pitch fastball. The Braves' third baseman seemingly gestured ‘what’s up’ as he started to make his way toward first base. His reasoning was he felt the Pirates’ pitcher was walking toward him.
“I wasn’t really upset about the pitch, it barely clipped me,” Donaldson said. “But most of the time if somebody hits you, they’re not ... I felt like he came down the mound. I looked away to try to give him a chance to look away from me. He kept coming down the mound and looking at me. Obviously he had a problem with me."
Basically, neither guy liked the way the other reacted.
“For him to act that way, I did nothing more than stand my ground,” Musgrove said. “I hit him with a pitch, and he stared at me trying to intimidate me. I’m not going to let that happen. I looked back at him. He had a few words to say. He crossed the line and came at me. I took my hat and glove off and got ready to fight. That’s what got me tossed. I don’t know what else I could have done in that situation.”
Trying to play peacemaker and protect his pitcher, Pirates catcher Elias Díaz was shoved backwards by Donaldson, who was quickly corralled by some of his teammates to get him away from the group of players that formed around the first-base line. There were no other overly aggressive actions shown, but crew chief Brian Gorman felt he had no choice but to eject Donaldson and Musgrove.
Gorman felt Donaldson instigated the incident verbally and Musgrove incited it when he threw his glove and hat to the ground.
“After Donaldson was walking to first base, he started popping off,” Gorman said. “The pitcher started barking back at him, threw his glove down, threw his hat down, wanted to fight. We got the aggressors of the fight and they got ejected.”
After order was restored, Hurdle was ejected when he came out of the dugout to object to losing his starting pitcher in the first inning of a four-game series.
“If you’ve played the game or you’ve been a part of sport, there’s times when you drop your hat and your glove,” Hurdle said. “That doesn’t mean you fight. You hold your ground. The hard part is, if the batter goes to first, none of this happens.”
It will be interesting to see if the bad blood boils over to Thursday, when Musgrove is scheduled to return to the mound to start the finale.
“If you don’t like getting hit or you don’t like getting pitched in, you’re more than welcome to sit the bench,” Musgrove said. “This is baseball. That’s going to happen sometimes. I’m not trying to hit him there by any means. That’s a guy I feel confident about my ability to get him out at the plate. The last thing I want to do is give him a free base.”