Monday afternoon's Indians-Reds game featured a tense moment in the ninth inning, as Aroldis Chapman threw back-to-back 100 mph pitches in the general vicinity of Nick Swisher's head while in the process of closing out Cincinnati's 4-2 win. Swisher understandably wasn't too pleased with the pitches, one of which sailed far over his head to the backstop, the other of which required the Indians slugger to duck out of the way in self defense.
The call from Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton may have been even more over the top than Chapman's errant pitches. "What you’d love to see Swisher do here is to knock it right off the temple of Chapman and see how much fun it is to have a ball coming at your head. That is bush league!" he shouted. Here's video and the call, from Hamilton's Facebook page:
Hamilton continued his high-pitched tone through the remainder of Swisher's at-bat, calling his warning track fly out as though it were a 450-foot game-winning homer, suggesting that Reds hitters "will pay the price for the stunt of Aroldis Chapman" sometime during the remainder of the series, and later adding, "If I were Joey Votto, I’m probably not going to sleep a whole lot tonight."
There's nothing to indicate any prior bad blood between Chapman and Swisher. The two had faced each other just once before Monday's encounter, on May 20, 2012 when the latter was still with the Yankees; he fouled out to first base in the ninth inning of a 5-2 loss. Swisher hadn't done anything of note earlier in Monday's game, either, like admire a home run; he had gone 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
After the pitch to the backstop, Swisher mouthed "Don't do that," and after he flew out, the two principals appeared to exchange words as he jogged past the mound, but following the game, he downplayed the incident, as did Reds manager Dusty Baker. From MLB.com:
"I know you guys are trying to stir some stuff up here," Swisher said. "The first one I saw go by, and I thought, 'Wow, that's pretty quick.' And then that second one was a little too close for comfort. Let's be honest, 100 mph at somebody's head? That's not exactly the best thing."
…"Is that the first time you've seen Aroldis throw one on the screen?" Baker said. "I'm serious. I just think that maybe everybody overreacted except the umpire [Paul Schrieber]. The umpire was really pretty cool about handling the situation. That's not something that we'd like to be known for or he'd like to be known for either."
It's worth noting that Chapman has been a bit wilder than last year thus far; his walk rate has climbed from 2.9 per nine to 3.8, and he has thrown two wild pitches in 24 innings, compared to four in 71 2/3 innings last year. Even so, he's been plenty effective, converting 13 out of 15 save opportunities, with a 2.63 ERA; one of the blown saves came after he allegedly ate 18 guava and cream cheese pastries, and who could fault him for that?
Despite Hamilton's on-air outrage, the Indians' response to Chapman's high pitches pales in comparison to the reaction of the Cubs' Matt Garza to a similar pitch to the backstop from Johnny Cueto in the sixth inning of Sunday's game. That one went over the head of David DeJesus, who had stepped out of the batter's box to disrupt Cueto's timing before the second pitch of the game. Later, Garza said, "I think that's kind of immature on his part and totally uncalled for. He's lucky that retaliation isn't in our vocabulary… If he has something to say about it, he knows where to find my locker, and I'll definitely find his." Baker responded by suggesting that the two pitchers duke it out: "Just put them in a room, let them box and let it be over with. I always said this, let it be like hockey, let them fight, someone hits the ground and it's over with. I'm serious about that."