The New York Mets lead MLB in hit batters by a chasmic margin. Their frustration boiled over for a second time on Wednesday.
Facing the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets received their 19th hit-by-pitch of the season when Cardinals reliever Genesis Cabrera hit Mets third baseman J.D. Davis in the foot in the eighth inning of a 10-5 Cardinals win. Davis left the game with an apparent injury, for which X-rays came back negative after the game.
Tensions were already high between the two teams after Tuesday's game saw five hit batters, three of them Mets. So when Mets reliever Yoan López opened the bottom of inning with a fastball high and inside to Cardinals star Nolan Arenado, the situation got ugly.
Arenado said after the game he responded by yelling at López to aim lower if the right-hander was going to plunk him. The confrontation soon escalated to both benches and bullpens clearing for a classic MLB mass-shoving match. The action peaked when Cardinals first base coach Stubby Clapp tackled Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who had pushed his way into the scrum.
Arenado and Clapp were both ejected from the game, while López was allowed to stay in and throw two innings to finish the game.
The benches have cleared after Yoan López threw up and in at Nolan Arenado. pic.twitter.com/VieEPQSKuu
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 27, 2022
Both teams had plenty to say after the game.
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said he "took exception" to the Mets throwing up and in on Arenado, but said he was fine with Clapp's tackle of Alonso. Arenado said he figured retaliation was coming from the Mets. López said he was happy he provoked Arenado into getting ejected.
Mets manager Buck Showalter noted Alonso went to first base after getting hit in the head on Tuesday, though he conveniently omitted that Alonso had stared down the pitcher to the point an umpire intervened and benches nearly cleared. And Alonso, well, he made sure everyone knew he could have grievously injured someone if he wanted to:
"I'm a big, strong guy. They don't know my temper, they don't know what I could do. If I wanted to put someone in the hospital, I easily could, but I was just out there trying to protect my guys."
The Mets stopped short of insinuating that pitchers are throwing at them on purpose this season, instead turning their ire toward MLB and its baseballs.
MLB responds to Mets complaints about slippery baseballs
With the crackdown on illegal sticky substances, several MLB players have complained the ball is too slippery, including Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt on Tuesday:
“The MLB has a very big problem with the baseballs. They’re bad. Everyone knows it. Every pitcher in the league knows it. They’re bad. They don’t care. MLB doesn’t give a damn about it. They don't care. We’ve told them our problems with them. They don’t care.”
Showalter later backed Bassitt, calling the matter a safety issue given how many Mets players have been hit in the head. Of the Mets' 19 HBPs, five of them have been four feet off the ground or higher, according to Baseball Savant.
The team's ire first made itself known in the second game of the season, when Showalter irately confronted Washington Nationals pitcher Steve Cishek over hitting shortstop Francisco Lindor in the helmet, leading to benches clearing and an ejection for Cishek.
After Wednesday's incident, an MLB spokesperson released a statement to Yahoo Sports' Hannah Keyser:
“MLB is always concerned about keeping hitters safe from dangerous pitches. We closely analyze trends in the game and have active conversations with our players and coaches to address concerns. Through April 26, leaguewide statistics show hit-by-pitch rates and wild pitch rates are down relative to previous seasons. However, one Club has been hit more than twice as often as the league average so far in 2022, which is something we will continue to monitor.”
The MLB average in hit-by-pitches this year is seven per team, per MLB, and no other team has been hit more than 11 times. However, despite the Mets' complaints about the baseballs, the league HBP rate is actually down this season at 1.14 percent of plate appearances, the lowest mark since 2018.