ATLANTA -- Dating back to an early July series, during which both teams were hit by pitches four times, the Braves and Marlins have seemingly overlooked a few mistake pitches.
But chaos understandably ensued when Atlanta reliever José Ramirez (reliever) threw a 95-mph fastball behind José Fernández's head during the seventh inning of Miami's 7-5 win on Wednesday night at Turner Field. Ramirez was immediately ejected and Fernandez rose from the ground and attempted to move toward the mound as both benches and bullpens emptied.
"I understand the reaction," said Braves catcher Tyler Flowers, who along with home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson prevented Fernandez from going to the mound. "I can't say I would have reacted any different."
Though no warnings had been issued, Ramirez's first-pitch delivery certainly appeared to have enough intent to warrant the ejection. Fernandez hit Nick Markakis in the ribs with a 2-0 fastball with two outs and none on in the sixth. The Marlins' starter obviously claimed this pitch was not delivered with intent, the Braves may have been suspicious because Braves starter Julio Teheran hit Martín Prado in the left leg with a pitch in the process of retiring just one of the five batters he faced in the sixth.
"If you think it's on purpose, and you want to hit me, go ahead," Fernandez said. "Hit me. I don't mind getting hit. That's part of the game. You don't throw at somebody's head because I have a family."
Both teams formed a scrum to the right of home plate, but the dust-up was limited to some pushing, shoving and verbal exchanges. Markakis left his glove in right field and made his way around the scrum until he met Fernandez, who was being contained by Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon.
"I was just trying to make sure guys go back [to the dugout] and most of the time those things don't get out of hand," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "You're just really trying to get guys out of it because they stand there and start chirping. I've learned from being part of those that as a manager you have to try and stop it from happening and defuse it from happening."
Markakis displayed professionalism as he shared a short, seemingly cordial exchange with Fernandez , who had allowed the veteran right fielder to homer during a four-run second inning and fly out to deep left field in the third.
"I told him 'Hey, man. I throw you one of the best breaking balls that I have, and you hit it out,'" Fernandez said. "'I threw you another one and you hit the [stuffing] out of it. That second at-bat, I threw some good fastballs in, he was late on it. Jam. Jam. I was hoping, 2-0, throw a fastball in, he hits a popup to second base. Obviously, that was not the case. The ball slipped out of my hands, and I hit him."
A rather subdued Braves crowd roared when Brandon Cunniff replaced Ramirez and struck out Fernandez, who was also involved in a benches-clearing incident between these two teams in 2013, when Brian McCann and others believed he admired a home run hit off Mike Minor.
"To me, Nick hits the ball out and then almost another one and then gets squared up," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I don't think that was an accident. When we play, I don't feel bad blood. It's just two teams going at it."
Flowers accounted for two of the three bruises Braves players incurred from pitches thrown by Marlins pitchers during the July 3 game played a Fort Bragg. One week later, the Braves catcher was diagnosed with a fractured left hand that likely was influenced by the fact he had been hit in this same spot by a pitch thrown by Marlins pitcher Nick Wittgren on July 1.
There might have been a hint of retaliation when Mike Foltynewicz hit Marcell Ozuna in the knee with a pitch during the first game of this series. But Ramirez exceeded the boundaries of retaliation with the pitch thrown to Fernandez and thus these two division rivals shared a heated moment that did not get physical.
"We've played them tough all year," Flowers said. "We've actually played really good baseball against them as well. It's been a grind all season. Some of that is bound to come out when you're playing competitive games throughout the whole season."