The Reds’ and Pirates’ benches cleared after Brandon Phillips was hit with a pitch

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Update: As I was writing this, Pirates closer Mark Melancon hit Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart with a pitch. There was one out and a runner on second base in the bottom of the ninth. Melancon was immediately ejected, and manager Clint Hurdle got tossed for disputing that with Reyburn.

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Pirates batters entered play Sunday having been hit by 59 pitches, a major league-leading total. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen had eight of them, the third-highest total on the team. It’s been such a common occurrence that McCutchen said, “Maybe I need to dropkick a pitcher,” as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported in July.

During Saturday’s game between the Pirates and Reds, reliever Joe Blanton hit outfielder Marlon Byrd with a pitch. It nearly hit him in the head. Even if it wasn’t intentional, it’s understandable that Byrd might not have been happy.

On Sunday, the Pirates led 3-0 in the top of the eighth. With two outs, reliever Pedro Villarreal hit McCutchen with a pitch, a first-pitch 91 MPH fastball. McCutchen, who was kneeling on the ground, had a word with Villarreal. He may have felt that the Reds were exacting revenge for Saturday’s event with Byrd. But McCutchen eventually took his place at first base and that was that, at least it seemed.

The Pirates responded in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, reliever Tony Watson hit Brandon Phillips on the back with a first-pitch, 94 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn didn’t immediately eject Watson, but he did get in front of Phillips as he walked towards the mound. The players began to spill out from the dugouts onto the field, and congregated for a pushing-and-shoving-and-yelling match. Ultimately, Reds first baseman Joey Votto and outfielder Byrd was ejected, as was Pirates utlilityman Sean Rodriguez. Watson was allowed to stay in the game, and got the final two outs of the frame to keep the Reds scoreless.

There will certainly be fines and potentially suspensions levied as a result of Sunday’s incident. And it likely won’t be the last of the bad blood between the NL Central rivals.

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.