Like I said earlier today, and I’ve said many times before, I’m not into intentionally throwing at batters to send a message. There’s just too much that can go wrong when you’re throwing a rock at a guy at 95 mph, assuming that you can locate it perfectly to prevent injury (when pitchers sometimes can’t even throw a pitch in the entire strike zone when trying).
THAT SAID, I have a pretty hard time taking issue with Cubs pitchers getting fed up (last year and earlier today) and throwing at Brewers batters. They have seen their own batters get again and again – 27 times since 2020 by the Brewers, the most by any team against any other team – and the Brewers just refuse to change their behavior. If time and again you cannot locate your pitches inside, then eventually you need to stop trying to pitch there. I get their frustration and feeling otherwise helpless to avoid the constant risk of injury that Brewers pitchers are presenting.
Anyway, that’s some of the background to what happened between Keegan Thompson and Andrew McCutchen today, with McCutchen getting hit after three Cubs batters were hit today. After the game, McCutchen got more explicit about why he was so upset about this one: he thought the Cubs were intentionally trying to hurt him.
McCutchen: "I do take that a little personal when you’re throwing offspeed pitches the first pitch and then you’re trying to hit somebody. To hurt him? That’s exactly what you’re trying to do. You’re not just trying to hit him, you’re trying to hurt him."
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) April 9, 2022
I really don’t think Thompson or the Cubs were trying to injure McCutchen, but his general point about retaliatory pitches is fair. If it’s a situation where you expect a guy to get hit – two outs, veteran leader type up there – then it’s really not cool to pitch offspeed away (it was a cutter) before coming back in for the hit. That said, after the first-pitch cutter, Thompson worked inside with the two fastballs (one merely inside, one very inside) before a third fastball hit McCutchen.
Again not sure what the intent was there, and none of this should ignore what has been happening *TO* the Cubs for years now, but McCutchen is making fair general points. He’s been injured before by being hit by pitches. It’s not a great thing to do in any case.
It’s worth listening to all of McCutchen’s comments there, by the way. I don’t know if he’s right in this particular situation or not, but that is a highly-respected, all-class individual. When he speaks in all other contexts, I listen. So I’ll listen to this one, too.
For his part, Thompson said after the game he was trying to work on a two-seamer and it got away from him. I leave it to you to decide how plausible that is.
Contreras, on Thompson pitch:"If it was intentional, we'd probably hit him with the first pitch. But we didn't. Keegan's a great guy. He's not trying to get anybody hurt."
Thompson: "I wasn't really expecting them to think I had any intention to it. I'm just working on things."
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 10, 2022
Hopefully this is done for now (outside of a very likely suspension coming for Thompson), and tomorrow’s finale is free of extracurriculars. I did appreciate that, even after all that, the umpires did not automatically toss Ethan Roberts in the 9th when a slider legitimately got away from him and hit hit Christian Yelich in the foot in a two-strike count. Everyone knew there was no intent there, and I also hope it isn’t later raised as a “see, they were still throwing at the Brewers!” point tomorrow if there are more HBPs by either side.