Hunter-Norris incident overshadows Porcello’s outing

Rick Porcello improves to 3-5 lifetime against Baltimore, 1-3 at Camden Yards.

Joy R. Absalon

All the talk after the Tigers’ 4-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles Monday night will be about Torii Hunter and Bud Norris, but it should be about Rick Porcello.

In the eighth inning, the Tigers (22-12) had a 2-1 lead when Ian Kinsler hit a two-run home run off Norris, the Orioles starter.

After throwing a first-pitch strike to Hunter, Norris threw a fastball that got Hunter in the ribs.

Home plate umpire James Hoye ejected Norris.

Hunter had a few choice words for Norris, who yelled back. 

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The benches cleared and the bullpens emptied but no brawl erupted.

"I’m a little sore, picking on the old guy," Hunter told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating. "I was actually thinking the guy had good stuff, he’s pitching pretty well. Boy, he just all of a sudden lost it."

By the look on his face, Hunter made it clear that he did not think that Norris just lost it.

Hunter told reporters in Baltimore that the pitch got him in the upper part of the left ribs and it was swollen and bruised.

"If I didn’t think that was on purpose, if Kinsler didn’t hit a home run, I wouldn’t have even argued," Hunter said. "I’d take the pain and walk to first base."

Norris told reporters in Baltimore that he did not intentionally hit Hunter.

"I respect him and the game he’s played for a long time," Norris said. "I respect everything he’s done, but I’m trying to do my job.

"Obviously he didn’t like it. He’s entitled to his opinion, but I think he did overreact a little bit."

Some fans had a bit of a reaction to seeing umpire Paul Nauert give Hunter a little slap on the cheek during the fracas, but Hunter was not at all bothered.

"That’s my buddy," Hunter said. "I’ve been knowing him too long. He was just trying to say, ‘Come on, T.’"

I’m not saying he hit him on purpose but it didn’t look copacetic, so to speak.

Brad Ausmus

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was not disturbed by the whole incident.

"I don’t know if he was trying to hit him or not but it looks odd after a home run," Ausmus said. "Coach goes out and all of a sudden, the guy gets drilled. I’m not saying he hit him on purpose but it didn’t look copacetic, so to speak."

What was copacetic was Porcello’s outing. In fact, most of his outings this season have been excellent.

Porcello, 25, improved to 6-1 with a 3.22 ERA. He has 29 strikeouts and six walks in 44 2/3 innings in his seven starts.

"He threw the ball really well," catcher Alex Avila said. "Had a good sinker going, real good cutter going. Really, we stuck primarily with his fastball, had that working, were able to mix in a few breaking balls here and there. Overall he did great."

Porcello is known as a ground-ball pitcher and he had nine ground-ball outs to three flyouts.

Holding the AL East-leading Orioles (20-16) to one run is no small feat.

Porcello won his fifth straight game for the fifth time in his young career. He also did it last season from July 5-Aug. 14. In his last three starts, Porcello has a 2.34 ERA with 13 strikeouts and two walks.

"Rick, he pitched well, so another quality start from one of our starters," Ausmus said. "We certainly seem to be getting quite a few of those. It’s become a theme and I hope the theme holds true the rest of the way."

Tigers starters have allowed three earned runs or less in 14 straight games.

But it’s Porcello who leads the team with six wins.

The only concern was that Porcello came out after six innings and 83 pitches.

"He had a little bit of tightness in the side," Ausmus said. "He fought me, he wanted to stay in — certainly that final inning he threw, he looked strong. If this was September it might have been a different story but it being May, out of precaution I took him out of the game."

Porcello did not seem too concerned.

"That’s not something that, knock on wood, I’ve had to experience too much," Porcello said. "It’s Brad’s decision and I understand. Hopefully be fine and good to go my next start."

The way Porcello’s been pitching, that’s what all Tigers fans are hoping.