PITTSBURGH -- All the Cubs wanted was to keep Jake Arrieta in the game. Emotions ran high and tempers flared in the seventh inning Wednesday night after their ace was hit by a pitch from Pirates reliever Tony Watson.
In the Cubs' 4-0 win over the Bucs in the National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, Watson's first pitch to Arrieta sailed inside and hit the Chicago pitcher near the hip. Arrieta exchanged words with Watson as he headed up the first-base line, and benches cleared shortly after home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson issued a warning.
A mob of players formed up the first-base line. After the relievers sprinted in from the bullpen, order was restored and Arrieta took his base. Arrieta, working on a shutout, had hit Cervelli in the fifth and plunked Josh Harrison in the sixth.
"Well, you've got a pitcher that's dotting everything up, throwing four pitches for strikes and Cervelli gets pitched hot up top," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "So I don't think anybody was a fan of that. Josh got hit with a breaking ball. That's probably just a pitch that got away."
"I hit two guys, unintentionally," Arrieta said. "I'm never trying to hit or hurt anybody. Balls were slick tonight. I just lost it a couple times. It kind of ran away from me. I expected that. They're going to take care of their own guys. It's understandable. Everything after that was fine."
Pittsburgh utility man Sean Rodriguez was the only player ejected following the brief fracas on the field. After his part in the incident, Rodriguez repeatedly punched a drink cooler before retreating to the Pirates clubhouse.
Rodriguez was upset at Cubs catcher David Ross, who apparently grabbed him around the neck.
"Ross grabbed me by my throat," Rodriguez said. "When you're trying to calm things down, that's not how you go about it. That's above and beyond what can happen on the field."
Said Ross: "[Rodriguez] swung at me. It's just one of those things, like, 'Whoa.' It got serious fast. It really shocked me. I understand, I didn't mean to put my hand around his throat."
This was the 20th meeting between the two teams this season and first ever in the postseason. There already were some bad feelings left over from the Sept. 17 game when Chicago's Chris Coghlan slid hard into shortstop Jung Ho Kang, who suffered a season-ending torn lateral meniscus in his left leg.
"We're not here to fight those guys," Ross said. "That's not what we came here to do. Unfortunately, it got a little ugly for a minute. We're happy for these guys. It's a good group.
"It's one of those things where we're out there protecting our guy, they're protecting their guys. [Arrieta] hit two guys on accident, in my opinion. It's a hostile environment and sometimes temper flares."
The concern for the Cubs was that Arrieta would get hurt or ejected. The right-hander stayed in and completed a four-hit shutout to help the Cubs advance to the NL Division Series.
"That's why we went out there -- and not to protect him, [because] he doesn't need protecting," Ross said. "Just get out there and calm things down. You don't want Jake's temper to go up and you'd hate for something to happen to Jake and get tossed out of the game. We settled things down before it got out of control."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said that was his only concern.
"When [umpire] John Hirschbeck came to talk to me, I was curious at what they'd seen," Maddon said. "I couldn't argue over anything. He told me that Rodriguez was kicked out for them and the warning was issued and let's get through this thing and I said, 'I'm with you, man, 100 percent.' I was really surprised at what happened."