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Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Clay Holmes said he doesn’t blame Eugenio Suarez for getting mad.
Suarez is having another fine season for the Cincinnati Reds, already up to 14 home runs and 39 RBIs after totaling 34 and 104 last year.
The last thing he needs is an injury when he’s hit by an errant pitch. But Holmes’ first pitch of the eighth inning Wednesday hit him in the left hand.
“Nobody enjoys getting hit,” Holmes said, “but at the same time there were no bad intentions behind it from me.”
After getting hit, Suarez walked to the mound, not necessarily to fight. Rather, he was on a fact-finding mission.
“He asked me if it was intentional,” said Holmes, the son of an Alabama preacher. “I told him it wasn’t. Kind of cleared that up.
“It’s not something I want to be known as. I was not trying to hit him. Not trying, for sure, to hurt anybody, ever. It was the first pitch of the inning. It slipped, got away from me. Unfortunately, it hit him.”
Yet the incident stirred more hurt feelings between the Pirates and Reds, coming a month after the teams’ benches and bullpens emptied when the Pirates’ Chris Archer threw behind Derek Dietrich.
After Suarez, who was uninjured, calmly walked to first base, apparently satisfied there no malice in the Holmes’ heart, Reds manager David Bell angrily confronted home plate umpire Cory Blaser and got himself ejected.
Later, Bell said of the Pirates, “We knew they’ll do it intentionally. I was doing what I could to protect our players. Clearly, we’re not going to get protected, so we have to do whatever we can. We have to take matters into our own hands.”
Reds pitcher Jared Hughes, who played for the Pirates from 2011-16, told The Athletic he agrees with Bell’s accusation that the Pirates intentionally throw at batters.
“Yeah, I think so for sure,” Hughes said. “Is it something that I saw when I was there? Yeah.”
Predictably, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle declined to get drawn into the controversy.
“I haven’t kept up with all of it,” he said before the game Thursday against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. “The interesting part of the game is always how people watch and they view it, because we can watch the same game and have different opinions and different thoughts.
“It’s third-person for me,” he said when asked about Hughes’ remarks. “I don’t read. It’s personal opinion. More often than not, we get very reactionary when things happen, and feelings and facts can be confused.
“But those men have their opinions, and they desire to express them. My opinion, I’m keeping to myself.”
For the record, Pirates pitchers hit 22 batters in the first 54 games this season (16th in MLB). The Reds are next with 21. Holmes has hit three in 13 innings, which leads all Pirates relievers.
Pirates pitcher Steven Brault said the situation could have ended badly, but players remained calm on the field.
“The one thing I do believe, this is still a game and people getting hurt (because of a purposeful act) over playing a game is ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t like it that much, but I understand protecting your teammates and making sure it doesn’t happen again.
“They figured it out, which is why we didn’t fight. I thought it was very mature of (Raisel) Iglesias (the subsequent Reds pitcher) to come in and just throw his inning and not hit anybody and end it there. I appreciated that.”