By Chris Emma—
CHICAGO (CBS) – Cubs manager Joe Maddon tried to take the heat off home plate umpire Jordan Baker for a missed strike call that led to fireworks and ejections in Chicago’s 8-2 win against St. Louis at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.
But right-hander John Lackey wasn’t willing to excuse the man who ejected him and catcher Willson Contreras during the fifth inning. After Maddon claimed a cross-up in signals led to Contreras catching a 2-2 breaking ball low, Lackey quickly disagreed.
With the scored tied 1-1, Cardinals runners at first and second base with two outs and pitcher Carlos Martinez batting, Lackey felt he had strike three to end the fifth, a belief that replays supported. Instead, it was called ball three, and after some the initial complaints, Martinez ripped a 3-2 pitch to right-center field for an RBI single.
After arguing the previous pitch, Lackey was ejected shortly after he screamed at Baker while sprinting to back up home plate.
“Big spot in a huge game and he missed the pitch,” Lackey said.
“He had no argument back. He was just trying to say, ‘That’s enough.’ Usually, when they do that, they know they missed it.
“(Martinez) almost walked to the grass. He knew he was out.
“I went back to home plate and told (Baker), ‘You can’t miss that pitch at this point in this game,’ and he threw me out of the game kind of half-heartedly because he knew he missed it.”
Contreras was ejected shortly after Lackey as he threw his mask down to the dirt. It bounced off the ankles of Baker, a move that could lead to a suspension.
“Those things happen,” Contreras said. “First of all, I didn’t mean to hit the umpire or to hit anybody. I think (Lackey) made a good pitch, even though we got crossed up. I think I did a pretty good job holding the baseball. I just got fired up. I couldn’t control my emotions.
“If I have to apologize, I’ll apologize to the umpire because I didn’t mean to hit anybody and didn’t mean to hurt anybody.”
Maddon wasn’t sure after the game if Contreras would be suspended. He will wait for the league to review the situation.
The single by Martinez gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Cubs reliever Justin Wilson would enter in place of Lackey, and Alex Avila took over behind the plate for Contreras. The Cubs bullpen responded with 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
The Cubs would rally back with seven runs in the sixth inning and never looked back. Carl Edwards Jr. earned the victory, while Lackey took the no-decision and also no regrets home after his actions.
“None, really,” he replied. “It was a pretty big spot right there. He cost me a big league win. Those don’t grow on trees.”
Maddon knows the fiery Lackey well enough to realize he wasn’t going to hold back after getting a strikeout — and a potential victory — taken away.
“Why would I think he’s going to change in that particular moment? God bless him,” Maddon said. “It’s who Johnny is. I never want him to change. He’s not going to change, so why even expect that? It happened, he reacted and the rest of the team came together.”