The pitch that broke Paul Goldschmidt's hand Friday seemed innocent enough, but that didn't stop the Arizona Diamondbacks from retaliating against Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen the following day.
There's no telling what to expect in the finale of this contentious four-game set Sunday as the visiting Pirates look for a third straight win over the Diamondbacks.
Pittsburgh reliever Ernesto Frieri plunked Goldschmidt in the ninth inning of the Pirates' 9-4 victory Friday, sending Arizona's first baseman to the 15-day disabled list with a fracture in his left hand.
''It hurts. He's one of the best players on our team for sure. One of the best players in the league,'' manager Kirk Gibson said prior to Saturday's contest. ''There are risks to playing the game. We're very familiar with guys getting hit in the hand.''
Though Gibson seemed to be taking the high road, reliever Randall Delgado drilled McCutchen in the back in the ninth, an inning after the reigning NL MVP drove in the go-ahead run. That loaded the bases with one out, and the Pirates added three runs to their 5-1 lead and went on to win 8-3.
Delgado was ejected after the errant pitch, which seemed intentional. McCutchen slammed the bat in frustration, and he wasn't too pleased after the game, either.
"They had all game to retaliate," McCutchen said. ''We understand that retaliation is going to happen in this game. But you know, there's a right way to do it. If you're going to hit me, hit me. He hit me square in the spine. If I get hurt, what happens then?''
Whether manager Clint Hurdle will retaliate in this contest remains to be seen, but Pittsburgh (59-51) can't afford to lose focus as it sits 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the NL Central lead while possessing a half-game advantage on St. Louis in the wild-card race.
Francisco Liriano takes the hill Sunday as he looks to continue his solid stretch.
Liriano (3-7, 3.97 ERA) brought his ERA under 4.00 for the first time since April 26 after allowing one run and four hits in seven innings for the second straight start, both victories.
He struck out a season-high 11 in Tuesday's 3-1 win over San Francisco and has a 0.95 ERA over his last three outings. The left-hander had been bothered by a left oblique injury recently.
''I thought it was his best outing,'' Hurdle said of Liriano, who went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA last season to help the Pirates reach the playoffs. "This is a guy who was a huge part of the success we had last year. That's why I felt it was important to get him up and running again.''
Josh Harrison has been clicking lately as well for the Pirates, going 14 for 31 during a streak of seven straight games with an extra-base hit.
He'll look to continue his hot hitting against Arizona starter Trevor Cahill, who hasn't shown much improvement after a month-plus stint in the minors.
Cahill (1-8, 5.59) is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts since being recalled July 14. He had a decent outing Tuesday, though, allowing three runs in six innings of a 3-0 loss to Cincinnati.
''He threw the ball better,'' Gibson said. ''He's going to get confidence out of it.''
The right-hander went 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA against the Pirates last season. He'll look to help Arizona (48-63) avoid a fourth straight home loss after David Peralta drove in all three runs Saturday, finishing 3 for 5 after hitting a two-run homer in the ninth.
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