Brewers' Gomez and Narron, Pirates' Snider ejected in top of the third
PITTSBURGH -- When he went toe to toe with the Atlanta Braves last September, Carlos Gomez was contrite and accepted both responsibility and a suspension. Not so Sunday, after the Brewers' center fielder exchanged words and blows with the Pittsburgh Pirates on a long, tense Easter afternoon at PNC Park.
Gomez missed most of the Brewers' 3-2, 14-inning win after being ejected in a benches-clearing incident in the third inning. Also ejected were Pirates reserve Travis Snider, who tackled Gomez before taking a punch to the face from Brewers backup catcher Martin Maldonado, and Brewers bench coach Jerry Narron, who aired his frustration that more Pirates weren't tossed.
Afterward, Gomez vowed to appeal his impending suspension, and both sides pointed fingers for letting things get out of hand.
"I'm not apologizing for nothing I did today," Gomez said. "This is my job, I've been doing it for eight years like that. They know I play like that. It's not to disrespect nobody."
Batting against Pirates starter Gerrit Cole with two outs in the third inning of a scoreless game, Gomez hit a drive to straightaway center field and momentarily watched the ball fly. He tossed his bat and started running to first base, first slowly and then more rapidly when it became clear that Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen wouldn't make the catch at the wall.
Because McCutchen briefly stumbled, Gomez was able to get all the way to third base with a headfirst slide. Cole was in the vicinity to retrieve the baseball from third baseman Josh Harrison, and scolded Gomez for not immediately running out of the batter's box. Gomez said Cole used an expletive. Cole said he did not.
Gomez immediately popped up and took a few deliberate steps toward the Pirates pitcher, and it was on.
"I heard something I don't like," Gomez said. "I don't think he's the one who tells me what I have to do. I don't tell him what he needs to do to pitch."
"I grabbed the ball from Harrison and I said, 'If you're going to hit a home run, you can watch it. If you're going to hit a fly ball to center field, don't watch it.' I didn't curse at him, I didn't try to provoke a fight. I was frustrated, and I let my emotions get the better of me and I ended up getting one of my teammates hurt, so I'm not too thrilled about it."
That teammate was Snider, who was sporting a cut on his face from Maldonado's right hook.
Gomez insisted the matter would have been resolved without an altercation had Snider and the rest of the Pirates remained in their dugout. But when Gomez took his steps toward Cole, Pirates players responded by storming the field. On television, it appeared Gomez took the first swing -- he disputed that -- and was tackled by Snider on the infield dirt. Brewers reserve Rickie Weeks restrained Snider, in the process spinning Snider around to get punched in the face by Maldonado.
Maldonado said he was merely trying to help Gomez, who was outmanned by Pirates players when the fracas began.
The Pirates were furious with Maldonado.
"There's certain rules of combat that apply, that didn't seem to apply for certain players on the other team," Pittsburgh's Russell Martin said. "I personally have never sucker-punched anybody in my life. I've been sucker-punched before, and I know it's not fun. I feel like to learn a lesson maybe you have to be sucker-punched to understand that it's not the right thing to do."
Asked whether he worried about drawing a suspension, Maldonado said, "I don't worry about that. That's part of baseball. You have to be responsible for whatever happens."
When Gomez incited the incident in Atlanta last Sept. 25, Major League Baseball levied a one-game suspension the very next afternoon.
Both Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle are expecting to hear from the league office soon about Sunday's event. Roenicke said he wouldn't be surprised if multiple players on each team were suspended.
"Having been in the game almost 40 years, when these things happen, not everything gets seen initially," Hurdle said. "My understanding is obviously [Maldonado] might have been an active participant. I haven't seen any videotape. Once it gets back to the league, that gets taken care of."
Gomez plans to appeal, so he should be in the Brewers' starting lineup for Monday's game against the Padres at Miller Park.
He placed the blame on Cole and Snider: Cole for assuming Gomez was admiring a home run -- Gomez insisted he believed he'd hit a hard out -- and Snider for charging from the dugout. According to Gomez, the matter should have been over when Cole began walking back to the mound.
"Everything stopped over there -- [Cole tells] me something, I tell him something back, everything is normal, I talk to the umpire," Gomez said. "And then Snider comes like a superhero and tries to throw punches at everybody. I just tried to protect myself."
The situation was different, Gomez said, last September with the Braves. But since that incident came so close to this one, some on the Brewers' side said they worried Gomez would be slapped with what they believe is an unwarranted reputation as a troublemaker.
"Yeah, you don't ever want to have a player that has more than one issue," said Roenicke, who didn't blame Gomez for responding to Cole's sharp words. "It's not a lot yet with him, but you just don't want that reputation."
"I think if you know him, you understand it's passion and emotion that comes from a good place," Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun said. "If you don't [know him], I completely understand the perception that he's out of control. He obviously is a great player, he's gotten better and better, and part of what makes him great is being passionate and emotional about what he does. But again, as an opponent, I can understand why people might feel the way that they feel about some of the things he does."
The Brewers have won six of the first seven meetings between these teams, who will see more of each other before the All-Star break. They meet next in Milwaukee from May 13-15, and they have another series at PNC Park from June 6-8.