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The Strike Zone

Untimely Ryan Braun plunking backfires against Diamondbacks

Arizona's Evan Marshall (right) was ejected for throwing at the Brewers' Ryan Braun. (Ross D. Franklin/AP) Arizona's Evan Marshall (right) was ejected for throwing at the Brewers' Ryan Braun. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The Unwritten Rules blew up in the Diamondbacks' faces on Tuesday night in grand fashion.

Quite simply, Arizona picked a particularly poor time to Make A Statement about what's acceptable on the diamond. In the seventh inning of their game against the Brewers, the Diamondbacks were clinging to a 4-3 lead with runners on second and third and one out. Reliever Evan Marshall then proceeded to hit Ryan Braun with a pitch that was almost certainly intentional.

Determining intent isn't easy, of course, but the Diamondbacks were worked up -- perhaps understandably so -- over Brewers starter Kyle Lohse hitting both Didi Gregorious and Chris Owings earlier in the game. They might have gotten away with retaliation had it been more subtle, but Marshall first threw behind Braun, then plunked him in the left hip with his next pitch, whereupon he was tossed by home plate umpire Ted Barrett. That beaning loaded the bases, and Marshall departed to a standing ovation, one that included a rather gleeful Kirk Gibson, who fist-bumped his ejected reliever (h/t to ChadMoriyama for yet another clutch GIF):

Gibson has been particularly critical of Braun in the past due to his belief that the Brewers' 2011 division series victory over his Diamondbacks was fueled by the slugger's as-yet-undetected use of performance-enhancing drugs. Braun's positive test, the one whose result was overturned by an arbitrator in early 2012 because his sample was improperly handled, came after Game 1 of that matchup.

Alas, choosing to load the bases in the late innings of a one-run game is a dumb time to try to exact revenge, whether it was Marshall acting alone in an effort to curry favor with his manager and teammates -- in which case, mission accomplished -- or following Gibson's ill-considered orders in a high-leverage spot. Reliever Brad Ziegler came on in relief of Marshall, and on his first pitch, he served up a grand slam to Jonathan Lucroy, who had hit a solo homer in his previous bat as well:

[mlbvideo id="33814769" width="600" height="336" /]

Oops. The slam gave the Brewers a 7-4 lead; they wound up winning 7-5. With the win, the Brewers are now 43-29, 3 1/2 games up in the NL Central, while the Diamondbacks are 30-44, 14 1/2 back in the NL West. One has to think that a suspension could await Gibson, who's already on thin ice given his team's last-place showing and the arrival of Tony La Russa as chief baseball officer. Whatever Arizona's manager believes, it's not his job to mete out punishment (MLB suspended Braun for 65 games last year), but you have to admire the combination of ineptitude and zeal with which his team went about doing so.

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