CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Maybe it was the fact the respective teams' batters were hit by pitches in alternate fashion, always a little suspicious. Or the fact that the fourth plunking was delivered by a reputed no-nonsense Pittsburgh pitcher.
Regardless, by the time Bryan Morris bounced a fifth-inning pitch off the Phillies' Cody Asche, it was enough for home-plate umpire Tom Hallion to issue a warning to both benches at Bright House Field -- a highly irregular development in a Spring Training game.
Yet another Pirates batter would get hit --- Josh Harrison, by Antonio Bastardo in the seventh -- but that was considered incidental enough to not trigger any discipline.
Phillies starter Sean O'Sullivan got in the first hit, on Neil Walker in the third. In the bottom of the third, Adam Wilk plunked John Mayberry Jr. In the fifth, Jonathan Papelbon got a big piece of a popular target, Starling Marte.
So to start the home half of the fifth, Morris hit Asche. Morris is the guy who earned tacit props -- from both teams -- for hitting the Mets' Jordany Valdespin last May 11, the day after Valdespin had overdone his admiration of a meaningless home run in Citi Field.
Sunday's extracurriculars received little and predictable attention.
"No chance," Papelbon said when asked if those pitches carried any purpose. "Did you see the way I was throwing? I wasn't really hitting my spots, was I? I felt good, and I wanted to throw hard. Of course, I have [my teammates' backs], but it's Spring Training, man."
"Maybe guys were just trying to pitch inside," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "There's a lot of different things you work on in Spring Training."
Reading between the box-score lines, one could assume that the Pirates are working on getting decked and then getting even.
After Sunday's game, Pittsburgh batters have been hit by pitches 14 times in 18 spring games and Pittsburgh pitchers have hit 15 batters -- both sets of numbers tops among the 30 Major League teams.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.