ST. LOUIS -- After a sixth Mets player in an already contentious series was hit by a pitch, Cardinals star third baseman Nolan Arenado knew what was coming before he even stepped into the box in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game. So, too, did St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol.
However, when Yoan López’s 94 mph pitch came high and inside, Arenado took exception to a pitch that he deemed to be dangerous and challenged the Mets pitcher verbally. Soon afterward, both benches emptied and unloaded some of the brewing tension that had been building throughout the three-game series. The Mets were understandably irate about six of their hitters being plunked, most notably slugger Pete Alonso, who was hit in the helmet on Tuesday on a two-strike changeup. Meanwhile, the Cardinals had plenty of frustration from their first three-game skid and series loss of the season and came out with a noticeable edge in Wednesday’s 10-5 win.
When New York’s J.D. Davis was drilled in the left ankle in the top of the eighth and Arenado was buzzed up and in during the bottom of the frame, chaos ensued. Benches cleared, relievers scaled the outfield wall and Alonso was flung to the ground by Cardinals first-base coach Stubby Clapp and reliever Génesis Cabrera.
“I thought so. After [Davis] got [hit] in the ankle, that was kind of the last straw for them, and I had a feeling it was coming,” said Arenado, who was ejected for what crew chief Mark Wegner called “charging the mound.”
“That was more of the problem,” Arenado said of López’s pitch being up and in on him. “I get what’s going on in this series, and it’s part of the game. I don’t know how close it was, but it felt close.”
Alonso, who has twice been hit in the head this season, was irate about he and his teammates being repeatedly plunked. Mets batters have been hit a Major League-leading 19 times already this season, though batters hit by pitches are down across MLB compared to 2021. Entering Wednesday, 1.14 percent of hitters across both leagues had been hit; in '21 it was 1.38 percent.
As mad as Alonso was about being hit on Tuesday, he was even more irate about Cabrera pulling him down while the two sides were shoving each other and jawing in the middle of the diamond.
"Génesis Cabrera pulled me by the back of the collar and then he just ripped down, and the coach just kind of jumped on me,” Alonso said. “I thought that was kind of cheap, going from behind. If you want to hold me back, if you want to restrain me, go at me like a man. … I'm a big, strong guy, and obviously the manager wants protection for his team and his staff. I totally get it. I'm a big, strong guy. They don't know my temper. They don't know what I can do. If I wanted to put somebody in the hospital, I easily could, but I was just out there trying to protect my guys."
Marmol was upset that only Arenado and Clapp were ejected when Alonso was the primary aggressor when the two teams met in the middle of the field. He was also unhappy that there was no action taken toward López following his high-and-tight pitch to Arenado.
“When you come up top like that and jeopardize someone’s career and life, yeah, I take exception to that,” Marmol said. “I don’t think anyone in the big leagues appreciates getting thrown up top. Nolan has every right to react the way he did and go after him. We’ll protect that.”
On Tuesday, the two teams went at it and the benches nearly emptied when Alonso was hit in the helmet and Starling Marte was clipped on the elbow. On Wednesday, when both sides had hitters plunked, the two clubs were aware of what was likely coming next.
The Mets (14-6) and the Cardinals (10-7) will face off again in a four-game series in New York from May 16-19.