Ten years ago, Cardinals players Tino Martinez and Mike Matheny and manager Tony La Russa were involved in a brawl that rivaled for intensity the recent melee that led to Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke being injured.
Like the April 11, 2013, incident between Greinke and the Padres’ Carlos Quentin, the Diamondbacks-Cardinals blowup was triggered by a pitcher hitting a batter near the shoulder with a pitch. Greinke suffered a broken collarbone when he was tackled near the mound by Quentin. Fortunately for the Cardinals and Diamondbacks, bruised egos were the only serious damage either team experienced in their fight.
Leading off the bottom of the fifth inning, Martinez was struck on the shoulder blade by a Batista pitch. It was the fourth time Martinez had been hit by a pitch in the young season.
Wrote Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Martinez glared at Batista as he haltingly made his way toward first base. Instead of resuming his place on the mound, Batista stared back at Martinez, watching him all the way to the bag. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa then came out to first base to check on Martinez, and he exchanged stares and unpleasantries with Batista.
The next batter, J.D. Drew, grounded to second baseman Junior Spivey, who tossed to shortstop Tony Womack, forcing Martinez at second base.
As Martinez headed toward the dugout, he and Batista exchanged looks, then Martinez charged the mound, the Associated Press reported. Martinez threw a punch; Batista fired the ball at him. Both missed.
Players from both sides poured onto the field and a brawl ensued. Wrote O’Neill:
One of the first Cardinals to join the fray was Matheny, who got in a few licks before he and Martinez were pulled down into the pile. Batista continued to throw punches as umpire Ed Montague and Arizona manager Bob Brenly backed him into left field. Martinez and Batista were ejected.
“What makes it worse is he threw the ball at him; that’s just bush,” Cardinals starting pitcher Brett Tomko said to the Post-Dispatch. “You don’t do that stuff. I understand the guy is coming at you, but there are more things involved in a brawl. You don’t want to seriously injure somebody chucking a ball five feet away from him.”
Said La Russa: “The only thing I’m going to say is when you drill somebody and you stare at him like he stared, that is so unprofessional and so intentional-looking. I mean, he just stared at him like, ‘Hey, I meant to do it’ the whole time.
“Then he runs. That’s ridiculous. I don’t know what history is there, but that’s the kind of stuff that hitters take offense to when they take a plunking. That was brutal.”
The Diamondbacks accused La Russa of inflaming the situation by glaring at Batista. “Definitely,” said catcher Chad Moeller. “There’s no question about that.”
Said Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez: “When that first situation happened, he (La Russa) goes up the line and he’s yelling at our pitcher. He’s trying to rattle our guys. That’s how he does it and that’s how he gets his team fired up.”
Brenly told the Associated Press, “I really don’t know what Batista is supposed to do to protect himself against a 240-pound charging bull who is supposed to leave the field immediately after he’s retired (on the forceout).”
Tempers flared again in the ninth. With two outs, reliever Jeff Fassero plunked Gonzalez with a pitch. Fassero and La Russa were ejected.
“That’s old baseball,” Fassero said to the Associated Press. “I play old baseball … I still believe in the old ways, settling scores for teams and stuff like that, protect your guys.”
In the bottom half of the inning, with the Diamondbacks ahead, 1-0, Edgar Renteria led off with a double and Jim Edmonds walked against closer Matt Mantei. After Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo (who had replaced Martinez) struck out, Drew was hit by a pitch, loading the bases and bringing Matheny to the plate.
Throwing heat, Mantei struck out Matheny, ending the game. Mantei’s final pitch reached 100 mph. “His fastball was electric,” said Moeller. Boxscore
Summing up the day, Arizona first baseman Mark Grace told the Post-Dispatch: “It was one of those situations where boys will be boys … Guys get hit, guys get (mad), guys fight.”
Eight years later, Batista pitched for the Cardinals, who still were managed by La Russa.