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‘It seems to be a trend’: Frustrated Cubs react to tension with Brewers

2 years agoTony Andracki

Two games into the 2022 season and tensions between the Cubs and Brewers have already boiled over into a benches-clearing incident.

As the NL Central rivals squared off Saturday afternoon at a frigid Wrigley Field, a scuffle broke out on the diamond.

The Cubs were protecting a 9-0 lead in the 8th inning when Keegan Thompson hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch. The Brewers felt it was intentional and players started pouring onto the field from the first-base dugout.

Both bullpens cleared and Jason Heyward sprinted from center field to get right at the front of the line for the Cubs:

The scrum dissipated after a couple of minutes and play resumed with Thompson ejected.

In the previous inning, Cubs left fielder Ian Happ was hit right on the kneecap with a pitch and had to leave the game. Earlier in the game, Willson Contreras and Nick Madrigal were both plunked by Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff.

For Contreras, it was the 15th time he’s been hit by the Brewers in his career. That’s more than twice as many as the next closest team — Cardinals (7).

He was also hit by a pitch in Thursday’s season opener.

“Being hit that many times is not fun,” Contreras said. “I know they’re not trying to but if you don’t have the command to go in, just don’t go in because you’re gonna get somebody hurt. I’m not trying to get hurt by a hit-by-pitch.

“Last year, I get I was on top of the plate. This year, I’m farther back off the plate and still getting hit. Big league pitchers know how to command the fastball. I get it, it’s cold, they don’t have the same grip. But just realizing if I was a pitcher and I don’t have the command of the fastball to go in, I just don’t go in.”

This is a situation that has boiled over from previous years. Contreras has been hit by Milwaukee pitchers 10 times since the start of the 2020 season.

“It seems to be a trend,” David Ross said. “[15] is a lot and 10 over the last 2 years seems to maybe be lingering.

“Nobody likes to get hit over and over again and by the same group. I can’t predict the future but the past would represent something. Not much has changed, I would say.”

Saturday’s Cubs starter Justin Steele understands his teammate’s angst.

“Would you get frustrated if you got hit 15 times?” Steele said. “I would be frustrated.”

To be clear, the Cubs are not accusing the Brewers of intentionally throwing at Contreras or anybody else. But they’re still upset about how the last couple of years have played out.

“I think it’s been more of a scouting report thing for a number of guys on the team,” Happ said. “Obviously, Willy’s an example of that — heaters in to him. I think [Kris Bryant] and Javy [Báez] were examples of that, too, when they were here the last couple of years. There’s just some guys — it’s in their scouting reports, the way they’re trying to get them out. Don’t think it’s on purpose.

“If you’re gonna come inside, you gotta throw strikes. You gotta be able to command it cause it gets dangerous.”

The Cubs also maintain they did not try to hit McCutchen on purpose.

At the time, Thompson had thrown 2.2 scoreless innings in relief of Steele and was looking to get his team to the 9th inning. His first pitch to McCutchen was a cutter on the outer half of the strike zone. He missed inside with fastballs on the second and third pitches.

On the fourth pitch, Thompson hit McCutchen with a 92mph fastball.

“Even though it’s a 9-0 ballgame, I’m still out there trying to work on things,” Thompson said. “I’m still working on my windup, staying on a good rhythm. I still have trouble with that sometimes. I’m working on 2-seams and sometimes it gets away. It just happens sometimes.”

Contreras had his pitcher’s back and tried to convey to McCutchen and the rest of the Brewers that it was not intentional.

“They can react however they react, to be honest,” Contreras said. “It wasn’t intentional. If it was intentional, we’d probably hit them on the first pitch but we didn’t. Keegan is a great guy. He’s not trying to get anybody hurt. It wasn’t intentional. It got away from him.”

Contreras Talks To Mccutchen After Hbp

The Brewers are not buying that and were more upset that Thompson hit McCutchen so late in the at-bat.

“Yeah, I think that was on purpose,” Woodruff said. “If you’re gonna hit him, hit him on the first pitch. Don’t try to miss and then come back and hit him. If you’re gonna do it, do it on the first pitch. That’s my take on it.

“I realize that over the last couple of years, we have hit their guys a lot, especially one guy in particular. But it’s just how we’re trying to pitch him. Sometimes balls get away but we’re not trying to do it on purpose. It’s not intentional.”

McCutchen — who is in his first season with the Brewers — is aware of the history between the two teams, particularly with the high number of hit-by-pitches on Contreras. But he said he felt Thompson should have hit him on the first pitch.

“You understand nobody’s trying to hit anybody, but you understand the frustrations behind being hit, too,” McCutchen said. “As a baseball player who understands that, when you’re hitting guys, somebody’s going to get hit. Guys are in the dugout going, ‘Who’s gonna get it?’ We know.

“Everybody and their mom knew when I came up to bat, I was going to get hit. Contreras didn’t even move his glove behind the plate when I got hit. He didn’t move it. We all knew it was coming. But it was a matter of how you do it. There was a better way to do it. I just don’t agree with the way it was done.”

The Cubs hope this is the end of the drama between the two teams.

“I can’t say it’s over,” Contreras said. “For my part, I hope it ends right there, it dies right there ‘cause there’s a lot of talent of both sides on both teams.”

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