Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) pitches during the ninth inning (Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

Tempers Flare ... and a Baseball Game Broke Out

A funny thing happened in the “Battle of Ohio” yesterday: People got mad.

Considering it was just Game 1 of a very odd “Four-game set” that is to be played in a near-playoff-style format of 2-and-2 (home and away) in consecutive days first in Cincinnati and then in Cleveland, the way yesterday’s game finished could be a sign of things to come.  For those who missed the transpiring, the game featured a pitching gem of two strong starters (Ubaldo Jimenez for the Tribe and Mike Leake (yes, that Mike Leake) for the Reds).  The late innings, namely the eighth and ninth frames, provided the fireworks – literally and figuratively.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) and right fielder Jay Bruce (32) react at the end of the game (Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

I’m sure you can read about other key moments that occurred in this one (like Shin-Soo Choo‘s leadoff homer against his old mates in the 1st to stake the “good guys” to an early 1-0 lead … or Jason Giambi‘s game-tying pinch-hit HR in the top of the 8th to knot the score at 2-2).  The game made for great theater before the capacity crowd for the fourth-straight day (all sellouts in the Cubs series and a sellout for the Indians opener).  As an aside, the Cincinnati faithful should PACK THE HOUSE again tonight … if for *no other reason* than to sell-out this entire short homestand.  The more compelling reason to attend tonight stems from what transpired from the 8th inning to the close of Monday’s Memorial Day duel.

The bottom of 8 provided the Reds “mini-rally” sparked by a single from “Mr. Clutch” Shin-Soo Choo, a move to second on a passed ball charged to Carlos Santana, and well-executed sacrifice bunt by “Look What You’ve Done for us Lately” Zack Cozart to advance the go-ahead run to third base.  With Choo now standing on third base, the stage was set for Joey Votto with only one out.  Unlike most of the National League, Terry Francona elected to have Nick Hagadone to pitch to Mr. Votto instead of intentionally walking him and setting up a possible double play with Brandon Phillips … and Votto made them pay.  With one glorious swing of the bat, Joey Votto turned that 2-2 tie into a 4-2 lead … which would ultimately would prove to be the margin of victory.

The *more* exciting part of Monday’s affair arguably had to occur in the Top of the 9th.  Aroldis Chapman, as expected, came in to close the Titanic Struggle … and, boy, did he ever.  Two key batters – first Asdrubal Cabrera and finishing with Carlos Santana – were called out on strikes. The meat of this sandwich was the middle batter, however, in Nick Swisher.  Tension started to rise on a fantastic pitch by Chapman in the outside edge of the black on the full count to Cabrera that prompted Asdrubal to argue with the home plate umpire Paul Schrieber.  As Chapman awaited Swisher to home plate (with no dispute on the prior call from Manager Terry Francona, I might add), things got a little “dicey”.

The first pitch from Chapman sailed over all three men at home plate, which was obviously a “typical” errant, adrenaline-filled pitch from an uncoiled Aroldis Chapman.  I thought nothing of it … but Swisher seemed perturbed, and Chapman noticed the “stare-down” if nothing else.  The next pitch, which seemed *purposeful* in at least backing Swisher off the plate, was a 100mph heater that nearly smoked Nick in the face and led to all kinds of emotion from the Indians dugout.

Should Chapman have thrown the 2nd pitch the way it was thrown? The answer depends on who you ask … Reds fans should say it was well within his means to back Swisher away and to show he’d stand up to intimidation.  What happens TONIGHT in the second game of the joint series for the Ohio Cup will show a LOT to how both teams are going to handle this going forward.  Any lingering animosity? The next pitcher to show intent in throwing at a batter is likely going to get an immediate ejection.  Yesterday likely pushed things beyond the “warning” stage for today.

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