Pitchers tend to react when they think a hitter is showing them up, and Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole is no different.
When Cole faced Milwaukee on April 20, Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez flipped his bat and seemed to admire a deeply hit ball that wound up staying in the park for a triple.
After Cole confronted Gomez, a brawl ensued that led to suspensions and overshadowed Ryan Braun’s ninth-inning heroics that helped Milwaukee earn a 3-2 victory in 14 innings.
Braun will likely return after being activated from the disabled list and Cole will be back on the mound Tuesday night as Milwaukee hosts Pittsburgh in the first meeting since the melee.
"If you’re going to hit it out of the ballpark, then you can stop and look at it. But if you’re going to hit just a fly ball to center field, then don’t stand and look at it."
That’s what Cole (3-2, 3.64 ERA) insisted he told Gomez, who had some choice words for the pitcher as well. After punches were thrown, Gomez was suspended three games and is awaiting word on his appeal. Milwaukee catcher Martin Maldonado (five games) and Pittsburgh outfielder Travis Snider (two games) already served their suspensions, while now-injured Pirates catcher Russell Martin unsuccessfully appealed a one-game ban.
Cole, who gave up one run in eight innings in that contest, was not ejected or suspended, much to the bewilderment of Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke.
"(Cole is) the one that started it all," Roenicke said. "If you start it, we’re going to respond. Gomey’s not going to sit there and not say anything."
Marco Estrada allowed one run in six innings for the Brewers in the last meeting but has a 4.58 ERA in three starts since. Estrada (2-1, 3.53) again will oppose Cole on Tuesday, though he’s hoping any bad blood between the clubs has blown over.
"I mean, if something has to happen, then obviously, I’m going to do my job," the right-hander told the team’s official website. "But I don’t see anything happening. I don’t think it’s going to go any further than it already did."
The Brewers (24-14) have plenty of other concerns. Former Pirate Aramis Ramirez has been placed on the disabled list after straining his left hamstring in Saturday’s win against the New York Yankees and sitting out Sunday’s 6-5 victory in the series finale.
Braun, whose one-out homer in the ninth tied the last meeting with Pittsburgh before Khris Davis hit a solo shot in the 14th, should be back in the lineup after an oblique strain had kept him out since April 26.
"Health is huge," Roenicke said. "We’ll get through this period, but we’ve got to get through this period playing good baseball. Our pitching, I think, is good enough to do that. We’ve just got to figure out scraping some runs (together). Hopefully, we get through it."
The Pirates (16-21), whose four-game winning streak ended with Sunday’s 6-5 loss to St. Louis, are dealing with injuries of their own. While reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen was back in the lineup Sunday after missing one game with a sore left foot, Starling Marte may miss extended time after exiting Saturday’s contest with tightness in his lower back.
Pittsburgh now begins a six-game trip after going 6-3 on its homestand.
"We had to play a lot of games uphill," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was a good, positive homestand. We fought to the end."
Pedro Alvarez went 3 for 5 on Sunday after going 1 for 14 over his previous four. He’s hitting .103 with 14 strikeouts in his last 12 versus Milwaukee and is 3 for 18 with eight strikeouts off Estrada, who is 5-0 with 2.22 ERA in nine career starts against Pittsburgh.
Cole, who gave up three runs and struck out seven in eight innings of Wednesday’s 4-3 win over San Francisco, is 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA in four starts against the Brewers.
Milwaukee has won six of seven meetings this season despite holding just a 29-28 scoring advantage.