It’s hard to argue that when St Louis Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly drilled Hanley Ramirez in the ribs with a 95 MPH two-seam fastball in Game-1 of the NLCS, it changed the series dramatically. In fact, it was the defining moment of the series as Ramirez was unable to continue because of a broken rib. And while Joe Kelly and the Cardinals insisted that it was not intentional, there are many who still believe that it was. After all, Ramirez was only the best hitter on the team.
On Saturday night, Joe Kelly delivered yet another blow to the Dodgers when he hit this season’s best hitter, Yasiel Puig, on the left hand with an 84 MPH change-up. Although Puig remained in the game for five more innings, he eventually had to come out because of the swelling. Kelly and the Cardinals insisted that it was not intentional even though there were two outs and a runner on third base with first base open. And although X-rays of Puig’s hand came back negative, he was unable to play in Sunday’s series finale against last year’s World Series losers. However, Puig is scheduled to undergo additional X-rays on Monday (when the swelling is down) when the team arrives in Pittsburgh to kick-off a three-game series with the Pirates.
In Sunday night’s game, Cardinals hard-throwing right-hander Carlos Martinez hit Hanley Ramirez in the left shoulder (just below his head) with a 98 MPH fastball in the top of the 4th inning. Once again Martinez and the Cardinals insisted that it wasn’t intentional even though there were two outs with runners on second and third with first base open.
Dodgers ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw had seen enough. It wasn’t that Ramirez was hit by Martinez’s pitch, it was that the pitch just missed Hanley’s head. Reminiscent of the good ol’ Don Drysdale days, Kershaw hit leadoff hitter Matt Holliday “on the wallet”, as Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully would have said if he were calling the game.
“It’s tough when you see Hanley get hit so many times,” said Kershaw after the game. “It’s one thing to miss in but when you’re missing up and in at a guys face like that, that’s really scary, you know. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t doing it on purpose but when you throw that hard you need to have a better idea where the ball is going.”
Although benches did not clear, home plate umpire Ed Hickox Issued warnings to Kershaw and to both managers, and it appeared that the incident was over... or so we thought.
In the top of the 9th inning, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal hit Hanley Ramirez (yes, for the second time in the same game) on the left hand with a 99 MPH fastball causing Ramirez excruciating pain and forcing him out of the game. The problem is, Hickox did not eject Rosenthal in spite of his earlier warnings to both benches. As expected, Rosenthal and the Cardinals once again insisted that it wasn’t intentional.
For a team with a seriously overinflated ego about how great their pitching is supposed to be, the Cardinals are tied for seventh for the most hit batsmen in the MLB with 39 (24 by their starters and 15 by their relievers). In contrast, the Dodgers are tied for 23rd in hit batsmen with 27 (10 by their starters and 17 by their relievers). As for Clayton Kershaw, Matt Holliday is the first batter that he has hit this season in 103.1 innings pitched, whereas Joe Kelly has now hit four batters in 25.1 innings pitched and Rosenthal four in 45.2 innings pitched.
To this point, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is the only (known) player that missed playing time after being hit by a Dodgers pitcher. Counting last season’s NLCS, the Cardinals are now responsible for two Dodger players (three if you count Hanley Ramirez twice) missing playing time because of being hit by pitches.
Additionally, when Rosenthal hit Ramirez after The Baseball Code was settled with the Kershaw/Holliday HBP, it appears that we now most likely have not seen the end of this.
Author’s Note: X-rays of Ramirez’s hand reportedly came back negative and he is listed as day-to-day, although he will most likely miss one or more games as a result of this latest injury.