The Chicago Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals rivalry is back at the forefront of Major League Baseball.
The legendary franchises have been doing battle since 1892, playing a grand total of 2,359 games. Along the way there have been many peaks and valleys in terms of the rivalry's intensity. Now though, with both teams seemingly guaranteed to make the postseason, it's naturally peaking again. Friday's heated game at Wrigley Field will only take that to another level.
The Cubs walked away with an 8-3 victory, cutting their deficit in the NL Central to six games. They also walked away with a chip on their shoulder following a series of hit batters, which included star first baseman Anthony Rizzo getting plunked twice.
Among those leading the charge was fearless manager Joe Maddon. In his postgame presser, Maddon pulled no punches, feeling that the Cardinals purposely targeted Rizzo the second time after Matt Holliday was unintentionally hit on the helmet by Dan Haren. Maddon seemed to imply that the growing issue between the teams is just getting started, and then clearly mentioned the Cubs intentions to finish it.
Yeah, it's on. And no doubt the league will be watching the rest of this weekend's series closely.
As for Friday's incident, it all started innocently enough. Rizzo was hit by his league-leading 28th pitch in the fourth inning, which was definitely not intentional. In fact, it loaded the bases and gave the Cubs an opportunity to blow the game wide open much earlier than they did.
Obviously, Rizzo doesn't like getting hit, but he also likely realizes it's bound to happen given his approach to the plate. He's not about to change that, so he rarely shows frustration or allows tensions to escalate.
Unfortunately, the following half-inning is when Holliday was beaned by Haren. The Cubs and Haren contend it was unintentional, but the timing set off alarms with the Cardinals.
Holliday was forced to leave the game after being struck in the back of his helmet by Haren's 86 mph fastball, which no doubt added to the Cardinals anger.
At that point, warnings were issued by the umpiring crew. Haren says he also specifically warned Rizzo that retaliation could be coming. He says he based that on the Cardinals history, and sure enough it happened in the seventh. Rizzo was hit on the calf by a Matt Belisle pitch. Both Belisle and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny were immediately ejected.
As for Maddon, he was steamed. So much that he still had plenty of anger left over at the podium.
Now it will be interesting to see just how much of that anger truly carries over. With two games left in the weekend series and tensions already sky high, there's definitely potential for more fireworks. However, as already mentioned, both teams are going to the postseason barring something unforeseen. If they were wise, they would diffuse this situation right now and not let it become the basis of their unforeseen circumstances.
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