Things got a bit tense in Game 2 of Saturday’s Cubs-Reds doubleheader, leading to ejections and both dugouts and bullpens emptying in the bottom of the fourth inning.
In the top of the fourth, Reds starter Tejay Antone’s first pitch sailed over the head of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Both benches were warned.
Cubs manager David Ross told reporters from his perspective, it looked like Antone was trying to send a message to Rizzo, one of the Cubs’ best hitters, amid his good day at the plate. Rizzo hit two home runs in Game 1 of the doubleheader.
“We’re not happy when somebody throws 97 [mph] behind Rizz, behind any of our players, for that matter, especially when they’re going good,” Ross said. “That’s not a slip, that’s not a miss, that’s not a grab some rosin slip. That was intentional, there’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
Reds manager David Bell and Antone said throwing at Rizzo's head was not intentional. Rizzo called it a “scary situation,” and while he doesn’t think any pitcher would purposely throw at a hitter’s head, he thinks there was intent to throw inside to him.
Rizzo notoriously stands close to home plate in the batter’s box, and Antone said he was trying to throw a fastball up-and-in.
“It’s just one of those moments where the direct pull shot at the head is just, life kind of flashes before your eyes there," Rizzo said. "I give the benefit of the doubt to every pitcher, especially Antone. He’s a rookie, he’s been throwing really well.
"The pitch inside was definitely for a purpose and it’s at the head, and that’s scary stuff.”
Ross, who said postgame he didn’t understand why both sides were warned, left the Cubs dugout to voice his displeasure to home plate umpire Nic Lentz. After returning, Lentz ejected Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello. Ross went back out to argue Borzello’s ejection and then he was tossed.
“Nic was just staring in our dugout and I felt like he was kind of waiting for something to happen," Ross said. "I felt like he was just a little bit looking for a problem in our dugout. We were ready to get back to baseball.”
Tensions flared further in the bottom of the fourth, when a pitch from Adbert Alzolay sailed head-high on Reds center fielder Shogo Akiyama. Bell left the dugout to talk to the umpires, later drifting towards Rizzo, who said postgame, "We just wanted to continue to play."
Both benches and bullpens cleared, with Bell, Reds first baseman Joey Votto and outfielder Jesse Winker all getting tossed. There were no physical altercations but the two teams formed a large scrum, which obviously is problematic in the age of COVID-19.
“Just a lot of frustration — both dugouts,” Rizzo said. “It’s what happens when you can hear everything and both dugouts are going back and forth to each other and the game’s starting to get delayed.”
Rizzo is appreciative Ross and his teammates stood up for him and pointed out Votto and the Reds did the same for Akiyama. In the end, Rizzo offered respect to the Reds.
“We’re all competing; all of us out here, emotions are high, and same with the Reds,” he said. “From my outside looking in, that’s a great group of guys over there that I’ve played a lot and have had a lot of good competition history with. That’s what this was today.”