DENVER -- Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl apparently made his point Saturday night. And so did Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez.
And the incident -- which, like most baseball confrontations, included plenty of posturing and no punching -- was grounded in history, with reasons to beef from both starting pitchers and both teams. So even after the 7-3 Rockies victory at Coors Field on Saturday night, there is a degree of bad blood between the teams as they prepare to finish the three-game series Sunday afternoon.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, moments after Rockies starter German Marquez hit Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen on the "M" on the back of his jersey in the top of the inning, Kuhl's first pitch forced Gonzalez to jump back. And Gonzalez answered by walking purposefully toward the mound. Home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild stepped in front of Gonzalez, then both benches cleared.
"I mean, people can say it wasn't on purpose, but it was clearly a first pitch, 97 [mph] in. That's why I reacted that way," Gonzalez said. "But nothing happened."
Marquez in particular was yelling and pointing. The Rockies' Ian Desmond seemed front and center. Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli and pitcher Gerrit Cole expressed their anger, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was in the scrum forcefully keeping the peace.
Asked if he expected to receive a warning -- which was given to both benches after the incident -- Kuhl said, "Not really. It is what it is. I was fine with it."
No one wants a hockey game at the ballpark, but Rockies first-year manager Bud Black said the expression of esprit de corps could be good.
"This is a good team as far as having each other's backs," Black said. "So I know that will continue with this group. They very much have each other's backs and will always. We also talk about this, as far back as Spring Training."
Marquez, who said he didn't intend to hit McCutchen, calmed down enough for a perfect seventh inning to complete a career-high-tying nine-strikeout night.
"I just came out ready to go and they were coming out ready to attack my pitches," Marquez said. "I was out there with my confidence, ready to execute."
But such conflict doesn't occur in a vacuum. Saturday was rooted in two occurrences:
1) Marquez, who leads the Rockies with six hit batsmen, was involved in a June 14 incident between these teams at PNC Park when he hit Cervelli with a pitch. Cervelli began yelling at catcher Tony Wolters and the benches cleared. Kuhl was pitching for the Pirates that night, which resulted in a 5-1 Rockies victory.
- The Rockies set a club record by hitting four batters Friday in the Pirates' 13-5 victory at Coors. McCutchen being hit Saturday wasn't even the whole story, according to the Pirates. Josh Harrison had to scurry from an up-and-in pitch just before McCutchen's turn.
"It's baseball," McCutchen said. "People are going to get hit by pitches. That's gonna happen. But this game's been played long enough to where we all understand what could happen after that."