Cubs-Cardinals rivalry has newest chapter after 1st inning ejection
ST. LOUIS — It took less than 10 minutes for the fireworks to go off in the latest edition of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.
On the 11th pitch of the game, Ian Happ swung and missed at a slider from Miles Mikolas and caught former teammate and Cardinal catcher Willson Contreras in the back of the head with his backswing. The blow immediately sent Contreras to the ground, and he was bleeding. He would exit the game and be replaced by Andrew Knizer and Happ would hug Contreras as he walked off the field.
“A lot of love for him, so to see him go down and be bleeding from the head, it’s obviously a scary moment,” Happ said after the Cubs’ 10-3 win. “We texted a little bit after the game and he’s doing all right.”
Willson Contreras has a pretty good gash on the top of his head that they were able to glue, rather than stitch, together. He said he passed all his concussion tests and his headache is all but gone, so he should be good tomorrow — with a goalie-style mask.— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) July 28, 2023
That’s when things got a bit testy from the Cardinals.
On the first pitch after play resumed, Mikolas missed high and inside on Happ, running the count to 3-1. The next pitch Mikolas hit Happ square on his backside, leading the umpires to confer and eject the Cardinals righty just 14 pitches into his outing. Cardinals’ manager Oli Marmol was later ejected for arguing with the umpires, too.
“Being honest with you, it was pretty easy,” crew chief Lance Barksdale told a pool reporter after the game. “That was actually pretty easy. If he does it later in the game, maybe it puts some doubt in your mind, maybe he didn’t mean to do it. Two pitches in, like I said, it’s pretty easy on our part.”
The umpires didn’t issue a warning after the first pitch because they deemed it nonintentional because “it was at [Happ’s] arms and he was able to move.”
The second pitch, though, left no doubt. Still, the umpires were required to meet before deciding on an ejection.
“Even though we feel – [home plate umpire] Ryan [Additon] felt – 100% that it was intentional, we are required to get together as a crew and discuss as a crew,” Barksdale said. “And to a man we all four it was no doubt that was intentional. And when it’s intentional, no matter where it hits him at, he’s ejected.”
The Cubs, meanwhile, made the Cardinals pay.
After Happ reached base with 2 outs, the next 4 hitters reached base, culminating in a 2-run, ground-rule double from Christopher Morel that staked the Cubs to a 3-0 lead before St. Louis had come to bat.
It was a dream start for the Cubs, as the Cardinals were forced to turn to their beleaguered bullpen (23rd in baseball in ERA, 4.55) to cover the final 25 outs of the game. The Cubs scored 9 runs off the Cardinals’ relievers.
“Had really good patient at-bats there early on to put up a few runs in the first,” Happ said. “Then, some big swings at the back.
“Just everybody’s having good at-bats top to bottom and being able to string together some hits and score some runs.”