In baseball, a team that just saw one of its batters hit by a pitch – possibly on purpose – will often return the favor.
Call it an eye for an eye, or a rib shot for a rib shot in this case.
Or if you’re Ken Griffey Jr., in your next at-bat you get even with the pitcher by crushing a 1-1 pitch out of the park for a two-run homer – the decisive hit in the Seattle Mariners’ 3-1 win over the Oakland A’s on Monday at Safeco Field.
Tempers got a little heated in the fifth inning.
José Lopez had doubled in the first inning off A’s starter Vin Mizzaro and then crushed a solo homer to left in the third.
So in Lopez’s third at-bat, Mizzaro sent the first pitch into his rib cage. Lopez tossed his bat away in disgust and stared hard at Mizzaro. The two even exchanged words.
At that point, home plate umpire Marty Foster had seen enough and issued warnings to both teams about any further hit batters.
Wakamatsu met briefly with Foster to discuss the situation.
“I don’t believe they hit him on purpose,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s a situation where a guy hits a double and a home run and gets hit, and fingers start pointing.
“I was with the club last year in Oakland, and I know their temperament. I don’t know the kid, but I’d like to think that he didn’t hit him on purpose.”
Lopez didn’t necessarily agree.
“I hit a home run off him and the next time up he hits me with the first pitch, that doesn’t look good,” Lopez said.
His teammates seemed to take issue with it as well, as most of them moved up to the top step of the dugout, a few jawing as well.
Griffey stood coolly in the on-deck circle weighing the situation. He’d also been hit by a pitch by Mizzaro, in the first inning.
He stepped into the box and looked at a pair of change-ups. On the third pitch, Mizzaro left a fastball up and Griffey hit a line drive of a homer to right-center. It was hit well enough that Griffey did the signature stand and step after hitting it.
It was a little sweet revenge for himself, and for Lopez.
“We heard about that in the dugout,” Wakamatsu chuckled. “How dare they. He’s always got a flair for the dramatic. That was beautiful.”
Griffey shrugged it off.
“It was a close game,” he said. “I was trying to drive the ball, and I just happened to get a pitch I could drive. I wasn’t thinking about it. I’m trying to win games. Those things happen in the course of a game you may or may not like. But the objective is to win the game.”
His teammates certainly enjoyed the moment.
“Yeah, it got us pumped up,” said starting pitcher Ian Snell. “These guys were screaming “Toma! Toma!” and started jumping up and down and giving high-fives.”
Toma, loosely translated from Spanish to English – at least in the way the Mariners were yelling it – means, “Take that.”
With notice being served by Griffey, Snell didn’t need to go out and defend his teammate: he could go about trying to continue a solid start that saw him take a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
He did so, pitching six innings, allowing just one run on four hits, while walking two and striking out two.
“That’s two starts in a row where this guy keeps improving,” Wakamatsu said. “The big thing for me was two walks against an awfully patient ballclub. He kept his pitch count down and attacked the zone. I couldn’t be happier with his outing.”
Snell said it’s a matter of getting comfortable being a Mariner and a pitcher in the ultra-tough American League.
“I kept the ball down,” Snell said. “It was just hard for me to get accustomed to this league, but now I’m starting to get used to it and starting to use my other pitches besides my fastball, and it’s throwing hitters off and it’s helping me out a lot.”
Sean White gave the Mariners two scoreless innings of relief, and David Aardsma picked up his 29th save of the season, pitching a shutout ninth inning.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483