Since Kirk Gibson took over as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, they’ve been one of the teams that has been the quickest on the draw to engage in the fine art of pitchers retaliating for wrongs—real or perceived.
But on Tuesday night, the Diamondbacks’ need for vengeance jumped the track from defending the honor of the Shaolin Temple to Bozo the Clown.
Honor apparently supercedes all other concerns in Phoenix, because with the a one-run lead, one-out and runners on second and third in the top of the seventh. Arizona reliever Evan Marshall set about the business of evening the score.
His first pitch to Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was behind him. So now everyone in the ballpark knew what was happening.
So did Marshall snap his fingers, shake his head and say, “Aw, shucks?”
Of course he didn’t. The next pitch was better aimed than the first attempt and it plunked Braun on the backside.
Home plate umpire Ted Barrett had Marshall thrown out of the game almost before the ball that his Braun had hit the ground.
As Marshall retreated to the Arizona dugout, the first person there to give him a high five was Gibson, his manager. Apparently, not wasting pitches on intentional walks and still setting up the double play is highly valued by Gibby and the Diamondbacks.
Sidearmer Brad Ziegler made his way in from the pen, a man who makes his living getting opposing hitters to ground into double plays. He’s done that five times in just 36.1 innings this season and in 2012, he had an absolutely ridiculous rate of 21 double-play grounders in only 68.2 innings.
He started Lucroy with a slider. Lucroy finished the Diamondbacks with the same slider, depositing a ball about six miles out of the park to center field for his third career grand slam, his second home run of the game and a newly minted 7-4 Milwaukee lead.
Lucroy finished the night 3-for-5, raising his average to .340, second-best in the National League. He’s as hot as any hitter in baseball in June.
After his outburst Tuesday night, Lucroy has six home runs already this month, after having just two in the first two months combined. He has 15 RBI this month after driving in 22 in the first two months.
His power is catching up with his average, which hasn’t been below .300 since it dipped to .299 after an 0-for-3 against the Cubs on May 18.
In the month since then? Lucroy is hitting .393.
So, Mr. Genius, also known as Kirk Gibson, was that little bit of retaliation really worth it?
Think about this rationally. You ordered the Code Red. You told your pitcher and your team—I want Braun hit, I don’t even care if there are runners on second and third and the hottest hitter on the planet is due up next. Get me Braun!
That it was Braun is not a surprise—Gibson has been outspoken in his criticism of Braun since the Biogenesis scandal broke last year. That’s not surprising.
It was Gibson’s Diamondbacks who bore the brunt of Braun going 9-for-18 with four doubles in the National League Division Series in 2011, right before his failed drug test—later overturned on appeal—was announced.
So great, Gibby, you got your pound of flesh.
All it cost you was a ballgame.