Maddon calls out Cards, adding heat to rivalry
CHICAGO -- One man's brushback pitch can be another man's beanball, just as a pitch that doesn't go where a pitcher wants can be seen as a purposeful pitch intended to deliver a message.
When tempers start rising around a baseball diamond in September, some moments will always be open for interpretation.
But there was no misinterpreting the message that Cubs manager Joe Maddon sent to the Cardinals after St. Louis reliever Matt Belisle and manager Mike Matheny were ejected in the seventh inning on Friday.
"I have no history with the Cardinals except that I used to love them as a kid growing up,'' Maddon said. "Right now, that really showed me a lot today in a negative way. I don't know who put out the hit. I don't know if Tony Soprano was in the dugout, but I didn't see him in there. But we're not going to put up with that. I'm going to say that. From them or anyone else.''
This 8-3 victory by the Cubs was the 17th of 19 games that will be played between the two Midwest rivals this season, unless they meet for more in the postseason. There has been little of the rancor that existed between the teams at times in the past, but Maddon put Matheny and the Cardinals on notice Friday afternoon that he's seen things he doesn't like.
There's no doubt that the Cardinals are seeing something in Chicago they can't like -- a renewed, highly competitive team built around some of the best young players in baseball. Holding off the Pirates and the Cubs won't be easy. But that's the business of the sport.
It's the most captivating in the moments when it gets personal, and a torrent of Maddon comments could contribute to this becoming one of those kind of weekends at Wrigley Field.
Maddon not only accused the Cardinals' management of ordering Belisle to hit Anthony Rizzo but pointed out that he regretted not having his runners steal bases with a five-run lead in the eighth inning because he wound up having to warm up heavily worked closer Hector Rondon in the ninth.
"The next time they [don't hold our runners on base], we're going to run,'' said Maddon, whose third-place Cubs trail the Cardinals by six games in the National League Central. "I want everybody to know that. I never read that particular book that the Cardinals wrote way back in the day. I was a big Branch Rickey fan, but I never [read] this book that the Cardinals had written regarding how to play baseball.
"If you play behind us, and we're up by five points in the ninth, we're running. And you have every right to do the same thing.''
The strength of Maddon's comments was surprising because he was never animated during the game. He said that was because home-plate umpire Dan Bellino and Tom Hallion's crew did a good job keeping order.
Matheny did not have a chance to respond to Maddon's comments before leaving the park. He was mostly concerned about the health of Matt Holliday, who had been hit in the back of the batting helmet by a Dan Haren pitch.
"I don't like seeing anybody get hit in the head -- our guys, their guy, anybody,'' said Matheny, pointing out that Holliday passed a concussion test. "We all understand the seriousness of it and I'm glad to see that [Holliday], like the guy yesterday [Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson, hit by a line drive], was able to walk away. It's something that is tough to see.''
Rizzo, the NL leader in times hit by pitches (29), was plunked twice Friday -- a Tyler Lyons curveball that didn't break, which bounced off his back, and a Belisle fastball that glanced off the back of his leg. The second one came two innings after Haren hit Holliday.
Haren was trying to pitch inside on Holliday, not hit him. He certainly wasn't trying to hit Holliday in the head. But as soon as Haren got back to the dugout, after feeling the venom directed at him from the Cardinals' dugout, he apologized to Rizzo.
Haren said that because of his experience, including two seasons in St. Louis when Tony La Russa was the manager, he knew the Cardinals were going to retaliate against the Cubs' best hitter.
"Being there before, they always police things like that,'' Haren said. "So like I said, I told Rizzo, 'If you get it, I'm sorry.' [I didn't throw at Holliday] on purpose. They threw at him. They might take it to the extreme a little bit with that stuff. I think everyone understands it. I guess at least they didn't throw at his head.''
Belisle, who was just activated from the 60-day disabled list with right elbow issues, is working on the command of his pitches. Like Haren, he said his intent was to pitch inside, and that he "yanked'' the pitch that hit Rizzo.
"I can't control that,'' Belisle said about the ejection. "Obviously, there were warnings out. I had to try to pitch in, so what can I do?''
Maddon was asked what he'd think if Belisle professed his innocence, as pitchers almost always do, by saying that the pitch got away from him.
"Of course not,'' Maddon said. "Of course not. That is ridiculous. I don't want to hear that. I don't want to hear about pitching inside. I don't want to hear any of that. The pitch that Danny hit their guy with -- absolutely a mistake. And Danny ... It was just a mistake. It just happened. It was awful. We hated it. We all hated it in the dugout. I'm happy that he's fine, absolutely ... We don't start stuff, but we will finish stuff.''
Haren, who pitched for St. Louis in the 2004 World Series, said the Cardinals have developed a culture of "protecting'' their best hitters.
"I think coming up with the Cardinals, that was just kind of a part of it,'' Haren said. "There was just always the thing of protecting the big guys. When I was there it was [Albert] Pujols, [Scott] Rolen, guys like that. I think a lot of times it's used as a tactic to maybe try to not get teams to pitch inside.''
It could be an interesting weekend.
"I think that's up to them,'' Haren said. "I certainly don't think that anybody on our side is going to come out and throw at somebody, that's for sure. Since I've been here, there has never been any type of order to hit anybody or anything like that. And Rizzo leads the league in hit by pitches by a lot. So it's up to them. If they want to continue, that's on them.''