CINCINNATI -- The Reds were already trailing by a lot vs. the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon on their way to a 7-2 defeat at Great American Ball Park. They missed an opportunity to get to two games below .500 and climb out of fifth place for the first time since mid-April.
But when Cincinnati’s best player this season, third baseman Eugenio Suárez, was plunked on the left hand by a Clay Holmes pitch to begin the eighth inning, it incensed the team and turned up the temperature another few degrees in the rivalry between the two clubs.
After being hit by the 94 mph first-pitch fastball from Holmes, a clearly irritated Suarez strolled towards the mound to have some words for the pitcher before umpires and catcher Elias Diaz got in between. The moment didn’t result in a bench-clearing incident and Suarez went on to first base but had to leave the game. X-rays proved to be negative.
“I don’t know if they are going to hit me on purpose. That’s why I walked up to him and asked him if he hit me on purpose,” Suarez said. “He said, ‘No. Definitely not.’ I just said I wanted to make sure because I don’t like that pitch up and in, right on my face. He said ‘No.’ The catcher told me too, in Spanish -- he’s from Venezuela -- ‘No, we don’t want to hit you.’ I just said 'I wanted to make sure because that hurt.' Thank God my hand feels good. No break. Just a contusion. I hope to be all right for Friday.”
As the club waited for pitcher Tyler Mahle to get his spikes on and pinch-run for Suarez, Reds skipper David Bell was ejected after a lengthy argument with crew chief Jeff Nelson.
“I was doing what I could to protect our players,” said Bell, who has already been ejected four times in his first season as a big league manager. “Clearly, we’re not going to get protected, so we have to do whatever we can. We have to take matters into our own hands. It’s unfortunate. Our players aren’t going to get protected. It’s been made clear. We know that team will intentionally throw at people. What are you supposed to think?”
Batters getting hit by pitches has long been an issue in Reds-Pirates games in recent years. That resumed in April when Pittsburgh starter Chris Archer threw behind Derek Dietrich one at-bat after the slugger admired a homer he hit into the Allegheny River outside of PNC Park. Dietrich also hit three homers during Tuesday’s 10-2 victory, giving him seven vs. the Pirates this season.
“The first pitch of the inning, it got away from me,” Holmes said. “I was definitely not trying to hurt him or hit him. It was one of those things where it's part of the game. I hope he's healthy and I hope he's good to go.”
Suarez missed nearly three weeks with a fractured right thumb after being hit on the hand by a Jameson Taillon pitch on Apr. 8, 2018.
“Last year, they hit me and broke my thumb. When I’m back, they hit me on my elbow,” said Suarez, who is batting .279/.361/.552 with 14 homers and 39 RBIs in 2019. “I just want to know why they hit me. They say it’s not intentional. I’m just doing what I have to do, ask them. It’s part of the game, not happy. Now I have to enjoy my day off tomorrow, and [come] back to Friday and see how my hand feels.”
The Reds and Pirates will meet next on July 29 at GABP.
Bell doesn’t feel that exchanging purpose pitches should be part of today’s game and had previously told his players not to retaliate. He’s now changed his mind on that issue.
“First of all, the ball doesn’t even hurt when it really hits you that bad,” Bell said. “But it has a chance to do some serious damage. When somebody is messing with your livelihood, your career, who knows? You have to protect yourself.”
DeSclafani regrets one pitch
The home run again proved to be the undoing of Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani, who gave up three in each of his previous two starts and eight over his last four games. On Wednesday, he surrendered just one long ball, but it really hurt.
It was a 0-0 game in the Pittsburgh sixth when Brian Reynolds led off with a single and Josh Bell knocked a one-out single just out of first baseman Dietrich’s reach and into right field. With two outs and runners on the corner, DeSclafani threw a 1-0 changeup that Colin Moran lifted into the third row of left-field seats for an opposite-field homer that put the Pirates up, 3-0.
“I made a good pitch to get the ground ball, it just ended up getting over Dietrich’s head. I’ll take that result every other time,” DeSclafani said. “A ground ball right to the first baseman to get a double play. It just didn’t work out in my favor. The pitch to Moran was on the black. He put a good swing on it and it ended up carrying out.”
DeSclafani’s otherwise decent day wound up looking a little less shiny as he gave up three earned runs and eight hits over 5 2/3 innings with one walk and three strikeouts. The other seven hits he allowed were singles.