Teams brush off plunking, ump's warning

Teams brush off plunking, ump's warning

MILWAUKEE -- Major League Baseball executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre spoke separately with both managers before Game 1 of what figures to be a high-intensity National League Championship Series between the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals.

His message to Milwaukee's Ron Roenicke and St. Louis' Tony La Russa was essentially this: Let's play baseball, not beanball.

"Even though I didn't think it was something on the front burner for them, I wanted to make sure. I would feel badly if I didn't say it," Torre said. "We don't want to issue warnings. That's not the way you should start the postseason."

While Torre's message might have been heard, his hope to avoid the issuing of warnings was erased during the first inning of Sunday's Game 1 at Miller Park, a game the Brewers later won, 9-6. After Ryan Braun hit a long two-run homer, Cards starter Jaime Garcia hit Prince Fielder in the right arm with his next pitch -- a 90-mph fastball.

Plate umpire Gary Darling immediately issued warnings to both benches. By rule, the umpires could now eject the next pitcher to hit a batter or raise suspicion with an inside pitch.

It stirred up the partisan crowd, certainly. In the dugouts, however, the reaction was minimal.

"First of all, I don't think he hit Prince on purpose at all," Braun said. "... I think everybody is anticipating more drama than there will probably be."

Fielder, who had been hit 10 times during the regular season, saw the situation similarly.

"No, not at all," he responded when asked if the plunking could have been purposeful.

While the timing of such a sequence -- home run, hit batter -- is often considered suspicious, Garcia was already having enough trouble locating the strike zone to have an alibi for the wildness. He threw just 14 of his 27 pitches for strikes and issued two walks in the inning.

Under other circumstances, there likely would not have even been a warning. But there is palpable animosity between these two clubs, and the concern of tensions boiling early certainly seemed to influence Darling's reaction.

"I certainly can't fault the umpire," said La Russa. "But you know, you can't go out and argue those things, or you get thrown out. I didn't say anything. What I would have said is, 'If you watched the way Jaime pitched that whole inning, every fastball he threw was in that same area -- out away from the [right-handed hitter] or in on Fielder.' They just looked bad, but he was just trying to get the ball somewhere near the glove. But I don't fault the umpire."

The two teams played a series of tense games among their 18 regular-season meetings, mostly after the All-Star break. There was a matchup at Miller Park involving plunkings of both Braun and the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, and another at Busch Stadium in which a shouting match between St. Louis' Chris Carpenter and Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan prompted the benches to clear.

Torre, the former Yankees manager, is no stranger to intradivision drama. His club tangled with the Red Sox on a number of October occasions, most famously in Game 3 of the 2003 American League Championship Series when Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez threw then-72-year-old New York bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground.

"When you play each other a lot, there is more wood to burn," Torre said.

That's why he had his brief chats with Roenicke in the Brewers' dugout and La Russa near the batting cage.

"They understood what I meant," Torre said. "I wanted us all to be on the same page as far as, we're playing baseball today. You turn the page. It's really special to get to postseason."

There ended up being no other brush-back instances over the final eight innings, nor did the warning seem to affect anyone who took the mound.

"I wasn't even thinking about that [warning]," Garcia said. "I pitched good for three innings after that. I was trying to make a pitch inside and lost the feeling of it. I didn't really think about that after."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. MLB.com reporters Adam McCalvy and Mark Bowman contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.