ST. LOUIS — The Mets finally sent a message, and this one seemed inevitable.
Benches and bullpens cleared in the bottom of the eighth after Mets reliever Yoan Lopez sent a fastball up and in to Nolan Arenado, who then shouted and motioned at Lopez to pitch lower than head-high. Arenado shoved Mets catcher Tomas Nido out of the way and players from both dugouts spilled onto the field as commotion took over Busch Stadium in the Mets’ 10-5 loss to Cardinals in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon.
“You’d be putting words in my mouth that it was intentional, which it wasn’t,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Pete Alonso, who was hit in the helmet on Tuesday for the second time this season, was in the middle of the ugly brawl that formed in the center of the diamond. The Mets first baseman was eventually wrestled to the ground by a Cardinals coach, Stubby Clapp, who was later ejected.
Alonso said he took issue with Cardinals pitcher Genesis Cabrera and Clapp for grabbing his collar and pulling him down from behind, rather than coming straight at him.
“I thought that was kind of cheap, going from behind. If you want to hold me back, you want to restrain me, go at me like a man,” Alonso said.
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said he had no issue “at all” with Clapp tackling Alonso to the ground because the coach was looking out for his own team.
“I’m a big strong guy,” Alonso said. “They don’t know my temper. If I wanted to put somebody in the hospital, I easily could. But I was just out there trying to protect my guys.”
“There’s consequences whether it’s on purpose or not and we’re going to stand up for ourselves,” the slugger continued.
Arenado was also ejected from the game for charging the mound, but Mets reliever Lopez was not because umpire Mark Wegner later told a pool reporter that he did not believe the pitch was intentional. Lopez later said the ball got away from him on his pitch to Arenado, but he was more than OK with Arenado’s reaction to the high and tight pitch.
“I was happy with that, because I knew that I got him out of his comfort zone,” Lopez said. “And they took him out of the game because of it.”
The Mets (14-6) had nothing to lose in the eighth, one inning after J.D. Davis was hit on his left foot/ankle, which forced him to leave the game alongside a trainer. Davis, who was celebrating his 29th birthday on Wednesday, sported a gray walking boot in the locker room after the game. The area he was hit was structurally intact and X-rays on his left foot came back negative, though the swelling was expected to take a couple of days to subside.
Davis was the fifth Mets batter in the three-game Cardinals series to get hit by a pitch.
The Amazin’s were trailing by five runs when Lopez threw up to Arenado and, most of all, were pissed off and emotional about getting drilled over and over. Showalter said he was satisfied with the way his team handled the situation, and that it was clear based on the umpires’ ejections that they agreed with him.
The Mets lead the major leagues with 19 hit by pitches, and it’s not even close. Three other teams are tied for second with 11 hit by pitches. Alonso and Starling Marte (as well as Yankee Anthony Rizzo) lead the majors in hit by pitches with four each. Alonso and Francisco Lindor have been hit head-high this season.
“We don’t take this stuff lightly,” Alonso said. “Whether it’s on purpose or on accident, guys are still getting hit in the head. Doesn’t matter.”
Alonso and Showalter indicated they do not expect tensions between the two clubs to carry over into their next meeting, a four-game series at Citi Field beginning May 16. The Cardinals felt the need to stand up for themselves, and the Mets felt the same, the Mets first baseman said.
But Alonso was still baffled that major-league pitchers could miss the strike zone this badly, adding the amount of hit-by-pitches have been incomprehensible ever since MLB’s crackdown on sticky substances last year.
Davis echoed Alonso, in that if pitchers have become so used to sticky substances that they struggle to find their command without them, then they need to revisit their plan of attack. Even if the heat maps and scouting reports are telling opposing teams to pitch up and in to Mets hitters, pitchers should not be attempting that game plan if they don’t have command, Davis said.
“Big leaguers that are supposed to be the best in the world at what they do shouldn’t be missing up above guys’ necks,” Alonso said. “No one should be throwing neck balls.”