The Diamondbacks don't exactly have a long track record of all-out brawls. Indeed, about the only comparable event I can remember dates back to April 2003, when Arizona played St. Louis. Tino Martinez was hit in the should by a pitch - his fourth already of the season - from Miguel Batista, to lead off the fifth. Stares and words were exchanged, but after Martinez was forced out at second, he charged the mound on his way back to the dugout, and Batista threw the ball at him. A melee ensured, and both men were ejected and suspended - Martinez for four games, Batista for 10, MLB coning down heavily on Miguel because of his attempt to use the baseball as a weapon/
It's been over a decade since then, but I suspect that tonight's incident has been a little while brewing, with bad blood between the two teams for some time. It can perhaps be dated back to the middle of September 2011, and a series in Dodger Stadium. Gerardo Parra was upset by a pitch near his head from Dodgers' reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, and when he hit a home-run in that at-bat, the home team felt he "showboated" it, Clayton Kershaw shouting at Parra and Matt Williams in the D-backs dugout. The next night, Kershaw hit Parra on the elbow in the sixth inniong, and was ejected by home-plate umpire Bill Welke, along with manager Don Mattingly.
Last May, things got a little tense again, with tonight's starter Ian Kennedy going up against Kershaw. In his first at-bat, Kennedy made two apparent attempts to hit the Dodger pitcher, first going up and in, and then throwing behind him. When Kennedy came to the plate later in the game, Kershaw also seemed to deliver a purpose pitch, but unlike tonight, made no contact. While, of course, neither pitcher was willing to say there was anything the slightest bit intentional about either incident, Willie Bloomquist came close to confirming it from the Arizona side: "No one was trying to hurt anyone. It was just to prove a point... Take it for what it's worth. It's a long season."
That set the stage for tonight's incident, which featured an escalating series of plunkings. The first was when Zack Greinke hit Cody Ross in the fifth inning, immediately before Jason Kubel's home-run gave Arizona a 2-0 lead. In the sixth, Kennedy then hit Dodgers' rookie Yasiel Puig, with a pitch that glanced off the Cuban's shoulder and into his face - coincidentally, as with Ross, the next batter up then hit a two-run homer. But rather than calling it even, the very next D-backs batter up, Miguel Montero, was also hit in an obviously retaliatory move by Greinke, prompting the benches to clear and home-plate umpire Clint Fagan issued a warning to both teams.
That didn't stop Kennedy. Greinke hit for himself in the bottom of the seventh, in what could conceivably have been a deliberate move to incite things by Dodgers manager Mattingly, (since I note Greinke stayed in the game after being hit, but didn't throw another pitch). Kennedy repeated the Puig-ing, a pitch clanging off Greinke's shoulder, then knocking his helmet off. As Greinke walked slowly down to first-base, there were words exchanged, the benches cleared, and all hell broke loose, with some thoroughly violent exchanges. And it wasn't just the players who were involved, with coaches also getting in on the act.
For example, D-backs' assitant hitting coach Turner Ward was speared into the dugout railing, apparently by Dodgers' reliever J.P. Howell, with bullpen colleague Roland Belisario lending assistance. Meanwhile. Dodgers' hitting coach Mark McGwire seemed to give a living demonstration of 'roid rage in action, getting all up in the grill of our third-base coach, Matt Williams and Kirk Gibson. It took several minutes before order could be restored, the four umpires being seriously outnumbered by the sixty-plus participants. In the end, Gibson, Kennedy and, inexplicably, Ward were ejected for Arizona, with Puig and McGwire hitting the showers early for the home team.
One trusts that MLB will review the video footage when it comes down to assigning punishments, because there were some - most obviously, Howell - who appear to have escaped sanction, despite having acted violently. It seems likely Kennedy will end up missing a start, but it will be interesting to see if Greinke, who absolutely hit Montero on purpose, is also suspended. Of course, it's not the first time Greinke has been involved in a brawl this season: in mid-April, he hit Carlos Quentin, who charged the mound and the fracas which resulted left Grienke with a broken collarbone, that caused him to miss five weeks. Seems he hasn't learned much from that.
Gibson was particularly neutral in his post-game interview, but it'll be interesting to see whether there is any carry over to tomorrow night's contest, the series finale. And the two teams then still have to face each other in another three series the rest of this season. Stay tuned, folks: if you didn't know it already, think it's going to be an interesting season.