CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon has known John Lackey since the right-hander was a rookie with the Angels. Did Maddon expect a calm discussion between the pitcher and home-plate umpire Jordan Baker after a disputed call?
"Impossible," Maddon said. "I could say I'd like to see that but why would I think that? That's the definition of insanity. Why would I think he's going to change in that particular moment? God bless him. I never want him to change. He's not going to change, so why expect that? It happened, we reacted, and the rest of the group came together."
Lackey and catcher Willson Contreras were ejected after arguing with Baker in the fifth inning of Friday's series opener against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The Cubs rallied to post an 8-2 win and open a four-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central.
Back to the fifth. The game was tied at 1 and the Cardinals had two outs and two runners on against Lackey. The veteran right-hander thought a 2-2 pitch to Carlos Martinez was strike three, and he extended his arms in disbelief after Baker called it a ball. Even Martinez had started toward the dugout, thinking he was called out on strikes.
"I did think it was [strike three]," Martinez said. "I was pretty surprised."
"He almost walked [out of the batter's box] to the grass," Lackey said of Martinez. "He knew he was out."
Martinez then singled to center to drive in a run and, as Lackey sprinted to back up home plate, he began yelling at Baker before being ejected. Contreras, also upset about the sequence of events, had to be restrained by Maddon and shortstop Javier Baez. Contreras also was tossed and he threw his mask to the ground, which then incidentally hit Baker.
"There was no intent at the umpire whatsoever," Maddon said of Contreras. "He slammed it down in anger."
"Those things happen," Contreras said. "First of all, I didn't mean to hit the umpire, I didn't mean to hit anybody. I thought [Lackey] made a good pitch. I got crossed up, but I think I did a pretty good job holding the baseball. I just got fired up and I couldn't control my emotions. If I have to apologize, I'll apologize to the umpire. I didn't mean to hit him."
Lackey said Baker did not argue.
"He missed the pitch. It's a big spot in a huge game and he missed the pitch," Lackey said. "He had no argument back. He was trying to say, 'That's enough.' Usually when they do that, they know they missed it."
Earlier in the game, Lackey had a few words with Baker after an inning. This wasn't the first time Lackey has been ejected; he also was tossed in 2009 two pitches into a start for the Angels.
The abbreviated outing ended Lackey's streak of 41 consecutive outings of at least five innings, which was the third-longest active streak in the Major Leagues. Did Lackey have any regrets about his behavior?
"Not really, no," he said. "It was a pretty big spot right there. It cost me a big league win. Those don't grow on trees."
Both Maddon and Contreras said the catcher was crossed up on the pitch -- it was offspeed and Contreras was expecting fastball -- and that Contreras' difficulty in corralling it may have contributed to it not being called a strike.
"He made a good pitch," Contreras said. "I made a pretty good job catching the baseball. I thought I was going to get the call. That was [Baker's] decision. I respect the umpire."
"I'd love to be able to see us add on a little more right there," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "We were looking for that big hit once again. Then we had opportunities to go after their bullpen to add on to a small lead. But we always know that these games can go one way or another in this place."
Said Contreras: "Every game means a lot. I'm thankful that this team was able to come back and win."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.