Plunkings add extra heat to D-backs-Dodgers rivalry
LOS ANGELES -- There is no skirting the issue. The Dodgers and D-backs do not care for one another with the heat index approaching the temperature of a summer day in Phoenix.
Given the chance on the day after Tuesday night's benches-clearing incident to put it to rest with dismissive words, neither Don Mattingly nor Kirk Gibson seemed prepared to offer or accept a binding truce.
Mattingly, the Dodgers' manager, acknowledged that hard feelings remained after D-backs starter Ian Kennedy unleashed pitches too high, hard and tight for Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke to avoid at Dodger Stadium.
Puig's nose was grazed by Kennedy's 1-2 fastball in the sixth inning, and in the seventh Greinke was struck on the left shoulder -- the area of his fractured left collarbone from an April fight with the Padres' Carlos Quentin. Puig was "a little sore," according to Mattingly, and was not in the lineup on Wednesday night.
In the wake of Puig's near miss, Greinke drilled Arizona catcher Miguel Montero in the back in the top of the seventh. But Mattingly, assured by Greinke he was fine with it, sent his $147 million pitcher up to hit in the bottom half.
Kennedy wasted no time introducing Greinke to some high heat.
"Obviously, anything like that is going to leave a [bad] taste in people's mouth," Mattingly said prior to Wednesday night's series finale. "In baseball terms, it shouldn't be over. ... Things that happened, you can't say you don't have responsibility in it."
Gibson made it clear in his media session that he was in no mood to expand or expound on events surrounding a game taken by the fired-up Dodgers, 5-3.
"I'm not going to discuss it," Gibson said. "I get it. The fortunate thing is nobody got hurt. We never endorse throwing at people's heads and that didn't happen [Tuesday night]. The ball got away [from Kennedy].
"I just want to make it clear we're not [headhunting]. If you look at how we got Puig out on his four-strike strikeout [in his previous at-bat], we found a little hole up and in. No question, we weren't trying to hit him. Certainly we're not trying to throw at a guy's head."
If the discovery of this "hole" pointed to a plan of attack by the D-backs against the blazing Puig, another fastball close to the face could set off more fireworks.
"One thing we've learned from Yasiel is there's no half-speed -- it's fast and hard, all the time," Mattingly said. "If he doesn't get out of the way of that pitch, it hits him in the eye. I don't think it was ever a part of the game, [throwing] above the shoulders.
"They hit our guy, we hit theirs. It should have been over right there."
Asked if he thought the matter was settled, Gibson said: "I'm not commenting on that. I know where you guys want to go with this, but I'm not going there."
Kennedy supported Gibson's version of events.
"I don't want to hit anybody in the head or come close," Kennedy said. "I've had pitches come close to my head, and it's not comfortable. I would never want that.
"With Greinke, I was trying to go inside and it got away. Puig, same thing. There's a fine line between missing your spot a little bit. I nicked [Puig's] nose; I feel bad about that."
Mattingly didn't not accuse Kennedy of intentionally hitting Puig, but the Dodgers' manager clearly felt there was intent with Greinke, stepping into the batter's box moments after drilling Montero.
"I really don't think Ian threw that ball trying to hit Yasiel in the face," Mattingly said. "That ball got away. But it got away and hit him in the face. The second one was intentional, no doubt."
Protecting the outside part of the plate with two strikes, Puig was particularly vulnerable to a fastball riding in on his chin.
"All nose," Puig said when asked if any part of his shoulder deflected the ball.
The dynamic right fielder from Cuba, batting .471 with a slugging percentage of .882, was ejected for his aggression in the brawl that followed Greinke's plunking. Unlike Puig, the Dodgers' pitcher managed to get his front shoulder in the path of Kennedy's pitch to protect his face.
"If they don't get out of the way," Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said, "we've got two guys in the hospital."
Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire, visibly incensed, had heated words with Gibson and D-backs coach Matt Williams during the brawl. McGwire, Puig and reliever Ronald Belisario were ejected along with Kennedy, Gibson and assistant hitting coach Turner Ward from the D-backs.
Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes felt Kennedy went outside the baseball code with the location of his pitches to Puig and Greinke.
"When you throw at somebody's head, face -- even if you miss -- that's never acceptable," Lopes said. "I'd say the same thing if it was one of our pitchers doing it. You're jeopardizing a guy's career, his life, when you throw above the shoulders. That's crossing the line."
Mattingly felt Greinke was right in line with baseball code in defending his hitters with the pitch that struck Montero in the back.
"To be honest with you," Mattingly said, "if he doesn't do that, he loses a lot of respect in the clubhouse. It's more dangerous not to do that than to do that."
The Dodgers and D-backs have three series left this season, two in Arizona.
"If I get thrown at, so be it," Kennedy said. "We've got better helmets this year."
"Any time you play a team in your division 19 times," Mattingly said, "there's always going to be some bad blood."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.