PITTSBURGH (AP) — Yasiel Puig looked eager to take a big swing. And not with a bat, either.
An enraged Puig barreled into a bunch of Pirates during a bench-clearing fracas Sunday, and was among five ejections in Pittsburgh’s 7-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The trouble started in the fourth inning when Pirates starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch behind the waist of Derek Dietrich. His previous time up, Dietrich dropped the bat and stood to admire his 436-foot home run clear the fence atop the Clemente Wall and bounce into the Allegheny River.
Dietrich froze in the batter’s box when Archer’s 93 mph fastball whizzed by. Plate umpire Jeff Kellogg warned both benches and new Reds manager David Bell jogged from the dugout to the infield, arguing Archer should’ve been ejected.
“I was trying to go in,” Archer said. “I air-mailed a couple balls today, a couple that I was trying to elevate, a couple that I yanked when righties were up there. Another one that I just yanked.”
“I missed — missed my spot,” he said.
The Reds weren’t buying it.
And when Archer was allowed to stay in the game, tempers quickly escalated.
The excitable Puig, in his first season with the Reds, grabbed Pirates bench coach Tom Prince and tried to put the 54-year-old former catcher in a headlock. Puig kept trying to plow ahead, and eventually was held back by teammate Joey Votto.
“When people watch the ball go far away or do bat flips, like I do before, in the next (at-bat) try to strike out the guy,” Puig said. “Don’t try to hit the guy, because we can’t defend you back because we can’t hit you with a bat or nothing.”
Puig, Bell and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett were ejected, as were Pirates pitchers Keone Kela and Felipe Vazquez.
Archer (1-0) went six innings, allowing three runs and five hits while striking out seven.
“It’s just completely unacceptable for anyone to try to intentionally hurt one of our players,” Bell said. “It’s that simple. And it was obvious.”
Vazquez said he was ejected for entering the field without his uniform top. The reliever, said Dietrich, who was designated for assignment this offseason, hasn’t earned the right to do something like that.
“He shouldn’t have done that,” Vazquez said. “If you do something like that, you’re going to pay for it. We’re trying to play the game like we have to, respect the game. He shouldn’t do it. Joey (Votto) can do it because he’s been here a long time, but for a guy like that, he’s not supposed to do something like that. … I think it was a little too much.”
Dietrich later homered for the second time. Scott Schebler also homered for the Reds.
Josh Bell hit an estimated 474-foot home run off Reds starter Anthony DeSclafini (0-1) in the fourth that cleared the batter’s eye in center field. Adam Frazier homered on DeSclafini’s first pitch of the game.
Bell’s homer helped the Pirates complete a four-game sweep. He said he isn’t worried there might be lasting repercussions with the Reds going forward.
“It’s not concern, it’s excitement,” he said. “This is what baseball is about. It’s starting early. The Reds were a team that kind of gave us some problems last year, so set that standard early and continue to let them know what we’re about.”
Pirates: RF Gregory Polanco (left shoulder surgery) and RHP Dovydas Neverauskas (left oblique strain) began rehab assignments with Class A Bradenton. Neverauskas pitched a scoreless inning of relief with one strikeout. Polanco went 0 for 2 with two walks.
Reds: RHP Luis Castillo (0-1, 1.42 ERA) will start a three-game homestand against Miami on Tuesday. They will be the only three games in Cincinnati for the Reds between April 4 and April 22, a span of 16 games.
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-1, 3.46) will make his third start of 2019 against the Chicago Cubs on Monday.