The Arizona Diamondbacks may well believe that they have reasons to throw at Ryan Braun, right fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Some of these reasons are three-year-old reasons.
But at Chase Field on Tuesday night, when the D-backs apparently chose to take a couple of shots at Braun, their timing was less than exquisite.
In the seventh inning, Arizona was leading, 4-3, with one out and runners on second and third. Braun was up against rookie reliever Evan Marshall. Marshall's first pitch was behind Braun. Home-plate umpire Ted Barrett walked to the mound, and asked Marshall what was going on. Marshall later said he told the umpire that the pitch slipped.
But Marshall's second pitch, a 95-mph fastball, plunked Braun solidly in the posterior. Barrett ejected Marshall. Now for the two elements that separate this episode from the rest of baseball/revenge sagas.
As Marshall returned to the D-backs dugout, he was received by what appeared to be a standing ovation on the part of the vast majority of his teammates. And very prominently, he received a fist bump from his manager, Kirk Gibson.
This is not a typical reaction for a reliever who has just given up two hits and hit a batter, without retiring anyone. But Marshall was greeted by the D-backs as a returning hero. Why?
Brewers starter Kyle Lohse had hit two D-backs hitters earlier in the game, but that doesn't quite explain Braun as a target. But here is what does that:
In 2011, these two teams met in a National League Division Series. It was a highly competitive, riveting competition, Milwaukee eventually winning in five games. Braun had a huge series, as his slash line indicated (.500/.571/,889).
Later, it became known that Braun tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug during this series. He got off on an appeal that centered on irregularities in the chain of evidence regarding his urine sample. But later, he was named as a PED user in the Biogenesis investigation and subsequently served a 65-game suspension last year.
Subsequently, Gibson spoke out regarding Braun on at least two occasions. Gibson was highly critical of Braun, but he has been far from alone in that regard.
"I wasn't surprised I got hit; I was surprised I got hit in that situation and circumstances, with the go-ahead run at second base and the tying run at third base, and they were ahead," Braun said. "I was a little surprised by that."
Next up came the reason that drilling Braun in that spot was less than a terrific idea for the big get-even. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy was up with the bases loaded and one out. And he has been, this season, and at that moment, the best hitter on the Milwaukee club.
The D-backs brought in Brad Ziegler, a ground-ball pitcher, in hopes that a double play would end the inning. Ziegler had never given up a grand slam in the Majors. That particular streak ended on the first pitch he threw. Lucroy's grand slam flipped the direction of the game and the Brewers eventually prevailed, 7-5.
Lucroy was having none of the back-and-forth about who was repaying whom for what.
"It just feels good to get the win," he said. "Whether it's quote-unquote payback, I'm not about revenge or payback. I'm about winning the game."
And that, whether or not it is intended, becomes the best revenge of all.
"I think the at-bat Luc had was probably the best at-bat I've ever seen," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "After they smoke our guy, they bring in [Ziegler], first pitch [Lucroy] sees, he hits a grand slam. There's just no way an at-bat can get bigger than that."
"You know what? [The D-backs] won tough-guy points today, but I don't know where the stats are for those," said Lohse, who became the winning pitcher. "We won the game because of that."