LOS ANGELES — At the end of a long, raucous night that was as much about fighting and retaliation as it was about baseball, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn’t want one fact to be obscured.
The Dodgers won a game they desperately needed.
Maybe it didn’t seem so important in the aftermath of a wild benches-clearing brawl that resulted in the ejection of two players, two coaches and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, but it mattered to Mattingly. And understandably so.
“You can make all the analogies you want about fight and getting our team fired up,” he said. “We won a game, period.”
It was an important game, too, a 5-3 victory over the Diamondbacks that moved the Dodgers back to 7½ games behind Arizona in the National League West. And yes, the Dodgers proved they have some fight in them despite their 28-36 record.
They didn’t back down when their star rookie, Yasiel Puig, was hit on the nose by a 92-mph fastball from Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy in the sixth inning. Something like that calls for payback, and the Dodgers got it.
In the next inning, LA starter Zack Greinke plunked the first batter he faced, catcher Miguel Montero, in the back. Benches emptied. Players glared. Gibson was visibly upset.
That should have been the end of it.
In most cases, it usually is.
“That’s the way the game is,” said Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz, whose bases-loaded double in the eighth won the game. “You’re going to hit one of our guys, we’re going to hit one of yours.”
Except it didn’t end there. When Greinke came to bat in the bottom of the seventh, Kennedy threw a pitch up and in – and dangerously close to Greinke’s head – that hit the Dodgers pitcher in the shoulder.
It got physical from there as the benches immediately cleared. Both teams pushed and shoved. Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario threw a few punches. Left-hander J.P. Howell pushed Arizona coach Turner Ward near the Diamondbacks dugout and nearly tossed him over the railing. Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire and Arizona coach Matt Williams had death grips on each other’s jersey. Puig had to be restrained by his teammates.
It got pretty ugly.
“It’s just baseball from the standpoint that Puig gets hit in the face, Montero gets hit and it’s over,” Mattingly said. “It should have really been over at that point.”
Puig and McGwire were ejected. So were Gibson, Kennedy and Ward.
But the Dodgers were still perturbed that Puig was hit in the face and that Greinke was also hit even though both teams were warned by the umpires. And the pitch that got him was close to his head, a violation of baseball etiquette.
“You don’t throw at anybody’s head,” Dodgers outfielder Skip Schumaker said. “I don’t care what the situation is. It’s a dangerous play.”
Mattingly said he hopes it’s over, that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks can get back to playing the game without more brawling. But in baseball, it’s always about evening the score.
“We’ll see what happens the rest of the time we play these guys,” Federowicz said. “It’s going to be heated. It always has been.”