Zach Rosscup

AP Photo

Joe Maddon downplays the Cubs hitting three Cardinals with pitches

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The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry continues to gather intrigue. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon criticized the Cardinals on Friday when they threw at first baseman Anthony Rizzo, which was ostensibly revenge for Matt Holliday getting hit in the head with a Dan Haren pitch. Maddon said after the game, “We don’t start stuff, but we will stop stuff.”

As it happened, Cubs pitchers hit three of the Cardinals’ batters on Saturday while the Cardinals hit none of the Cubs’ batters. Second baseman Kolten Wong was struck by Trevor Cahill in the sixth inning, and he was hit again by Fernando Rodney in the eighth. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman issued a warning to both teams. In the ninth inning, Hector Rondon hit Greg Garcia. Both Rondon and Maddon were immediately ejected.

Maddon is playing it off as a coincidence. Via Sahadev Sharma of BP Wrigleyville:

We’ll never know the true intent of any of the three Cubs’ pitchers. But Rodney had a 2-2 count with the bases empty and two outs against Wong. Then, after hitting him, Rodney slapped his chest, a common way players show that they accept blame, as if to say, “my bad”. In the ninth inning, Rondon was ahead 1-2 on Garcia and hit him with a fastball that ran a little too far inside. It wasn’t that far away from being a strike and certainly close enough to merit the benefit of the doubt, even given the circumstances.

At any rate, the Cardinals used the HBP to kickstart a rally. Zach Rosscup replaced Rondon and promptly served up a two-run home run to Matt Carpenter to make it a 5-3 game. He would allow back-to-back singles before being replaced by Pedro Strop. Strop got Jhonny Peralta to strike out, Yadier Molina to hit a sacrifice fly, and Stephen Piscotty to hit a game-ending ground out, thanks in large part to a terrific diving stop by Addison Russell. If, in fact, the Cubs had thrown at Garcia intentionally, they learned their lesson by very nearly losing Saturday’s game because of it.