Strop calls Puig 'stupid' after Cubs-Reds fracas

June 30th, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Cubs reliever and Reds right fielder didn't have a checkered history with one another, at least until Saturday. Now it's safe to say that Strop is not Puig's friend.

During a 6-0 Cubs victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park, things became heated with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Strop hit Puig in the left leg with a 3-0 fastball as he waited with the bat rested on his shoulder.

An enraged Puig started walking towards Strop and spiked his helmet to the ground. He had to be held back with Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and first baseman Anthony Rizzo running interference to protect their pitcher. The benches and bullpens cleared. It took several minutes for the situation to calm down.

"The guy has got the ball. He throws the ball [at] me. What am I supposed to do? Do nothing?" Puig said. "In the heat of the game, he throws me the ball. We jaw back and forward. The bullpens and the dugouts clear. The lesson today is nothing happened. Nobody got hurt for the moment. I talk with my teammates. Going out and winning the game is more important than throwing the ball [at] the other team."

Strop and Puig continued to exchange words as their teammates held them back.

"I told him, 'Why are you talking? You had a chance to just come and do whatever you need to do on the mound,'" Strop said. "'Now you're just screaming.' I mean, it's not a secret he's stupid. He's stupid as [heck]. I have nothing against him, but he's stupid. There's no doubt about it."

Order was restored without punches or ejections. But it took a big effort from Reds first baseman Joey Votto to hold back Puig and get him to take first base.

"He said, 'Calm down. We need you'," Puig said of Votto. "That's the reason I said I want to go out and win the game and win the series."

Strop and Puig both agreed they had no issues with each other in the past.

"He just reacted like that. I don't know," Strop said. "Maybe because it was a 3-0 pitch, it could've looked weird. But it wasn't a secret I wasn't commanding my sinker in and I didn't want to leave a cookie, 3-0. This is a guy that will swing 3-0 and just hit it way out of the park. But he just acted stupid. I don't know. I don't know what to say about it."

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was so busy focusing on the next matchup of Strop and Jose Iglesias that he did not see much of the skirmish's beginning.

"I was surprised. He hit him in the butt. It's not that bad, so I was surprised," Maddon said.

Home plate umpire and crew chief Mark Wegner issued warnings to both benches, but that did not end the controversy. There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Cubs reliever Dillon Maples hit pinch-hitter Jose Peraza on the left shoulder with a first-pitch breaking ball.

Despite the warnings, Maples was not thrown out of the game. That brought Reds manager David Bell out of the dugout to argue that Maples and Maddon should be ejected.

"I didn't believe it was intentional," Wegner said.

Wegner ejected Bell from the game.

"I don't like when our guys get hit," said Bell, who was tossed for the sixth time in his first season as manager. "We care about our players, and we don't like them getting hit. Yasiel got hit and both teams got warned, and then Jose got it. It was a matter of not liking our guys get hit."

Bell appreciated the manner in how his team stuck up for Puig.

"It is an emotional game. Guys really care. You always have to protect yourself," Bell said. "We have to protect our team. It's a close team. Guys compete well together. They care a lot for each other. That's something that's very important to us and something that will help us be the best team we can."

It was Cincinnati's fifth loss in its past six games and moved the last-place club back to 6 1/2 games behind Chicago (45-38) in the National League Central standings. It was a needed road win for the Cubs, who'd dropped 14 of their previous 19 games when away from Wrigley Field.

The two teams have split the first two games of the series and will play the rubber game on Sunday.

"Myself and my teammates want to go out and win the game tomorrow," Puig said. "We want to be close to the team that is at the top of the [standings]. We're going to forget what happened today."