If You Can’t Beat Him, Drill Him: Chickenfish Pitcher

You thought Hunter Strickland drilling Bryce Harper over a three-year-old postseason bomb was abject stupidity? How about what Jose Urena did to Ronald Acuna, Jr. Wednesday night in Atlanta? Stupidity would be a compliment. Cowardly doesn't begin to cover it.

Acuna's been putting on a power show of late. Eight bombs in his past five games including three straight leading off including on Tuesday night. You don't necessarily blame a team for thinking the rook is a little too comfortable at the plate for his own good. But you don't try to break his elbow on the first pitch of the game, either.

Somebody forgot to advise Urena. Actually, it turns out Marlins manager Don Mattingly didn't forget. "What we said with Jose," Mattingly told MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, "is, 'I don't want to see this kid get hit.' He's a great player. He's going to be great for a long time. For us, he's beat us up, but this is not the way we want to handle that situation. Obviously, this is not something that we represent or believe in as an organization, or myself too. I would never want that kid getting hit and cause that kind of problem."

You get the Marlins being a little embarrassed that Acuna opened both ends of a Monday doubleheader long distance, then opened Tuesday night's festivities likewise. But you don't and shouldn't get Urena opening the bottom of the first by throwing a 97 mile an hour fastball right into Acuna's left elbow.

Acuna doubled over in pain, his bat tumbling out of his hand as he bent, and skipped several steps off to the left side before running a semi-circle back toward the third base line. Plate umpire Chad Fairchild bounded up from his post immediately. As he handed a fresh ball to Braves catcher Tyler Flowers, Acuna crossed the third base line and squatted in continuing pain. Then he got up in continuing agony.

The moment he did, the Braves began coming out of their dugout toward the mound area, led by manager Brian Snitker himself. Only when a mass of Braves arrived in Chickenfish Urena's direction did the Marlins come out of their dugout. There was a little shoving here and a little bumping there but nothing turned into a brawl just yet.

But as the mass meeting seemed to start dissipating, Snitker started bellowing at the umpires, presumably demanding Urena's ejection, if not his on-site execution, for such despicability. Then the dugouts rejoined and the bullpens emptied. Only then did the umps throw the Chickenfish out of the game while handing warnings to both sides.

So the Marlins got away with injuring the Braves' rookie leadoff pain, costing them his services for who knows how long, an absence the Braves — who surged somewhat unexpectedly this year and now sit two games up on the Phillies as they lead the National League East — can't afford now.

On what grounds did the umps further decide to eject Snitker, though? If you can get thrown out of a game for demanding the purge of a pitcher who opened your half of the first inning by drilling your white-hot leadoff bombardier, there's something amiss, and the arbiters are missing it.

"If you're Marlins starter Jose Urena, facing the Braves tonight," fumed Deadspin's Lauren Thiesen, "you can either take Acuna's recent success as an exciting challenge to your own skills, or you could take the scoundrel's way out and deny him a chance to beat you with the long ball."

This wasn't anything like the Mets' Noah Syndergaard dropping the Royals' Alcides Escobar to open Game 3 of the 2015 World Series, when Escobar had been a little too comfortable at the plate before. Syndergaard only wanted to knock him down. He wasn't looking to make Escobar headless or leave him with broken bones.

Urena must have hungered to make or join his own history. He became the fourth pitcher in the live ball era to hit the only batter he faced to start a game. The extinguished company he joins: Bob Shaw (Giants, 1965); Scott Elarton (Astros, 2001); and, John Lackey (Angels, 2009).

The first player to open three straight with bombs since Brady Anderson in 1996, and the youngest ever to go long in five straight at any time, Acuna finally took his base and stayed in the game. He stayed in long enough to point to the Braves' dugout from his left field post while still flexing his left arm. How badly he's injured and how long the Braves have to live without him is anyone's guess at this writing.

Since Mattingly did advise his pitcher not to try any rough stuff before Urena went and did just that, Urena should be punished on two sides. The Marlins would send a big message, to the Braves and elsewhere, if they suspend him. And baseball government ought to do likewise and then some. A 10-start suspension ought to work just right. The Fish aren't going anywhere this season. They can afford to dock him and give someone else a look over the same period. Someone who isn't liable to disregard the skipper's advice about cooling off a hot hitter.

If Urena thought Acuna was getting too comfortable at the plate, why didn't his fellow Marlins pitchers just zip him inside and tight Tuesday night after he hit the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first over the left field fence? He batted four more times in that game, and on the fourth trip to the plate, with two aboard, he ripped the first pitch he saw in that at-bat over the right field fence? You want to remind him not to get too comfortable at the plate, you had four more chances. You didn't take them. He finally made you pay.

So he stepped in to lead off for the Braves in the bottom of the first Wednesday night. And took one off his elbow that not even Stevie Wonder would say couldn't be seen as intentional and with malice aforethought. You can only imagine who was thinking what when ESPN Stats & Info disclosed that it was the fastest pitch with which Urena has opened any start this year.

Chickenfish Urena probably didn't love the idea of being Acuna's prospective fourth straight game-opening bombing victim, but we're betting Acuna didn't love the idea of possibly getting his elbow cracked because the pitcher wanted to run home to Mommy over the thought of, you know, actually pitching to him.

The Braves have four more games to play against the Marlins this year, starting next Thursday night in Miami. Personally, I hope the first Marlins batter of the set gets knocked on his ass. I'm not normally in favor of beanball wars, most of which get started because a pitcher's ego got sent into the seats with a meal and a stewardess on board. But that would be one nobody in baseball with eyes and a brain would call unjustified.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site