Castro's bat hot, but Maddon hotter over Rizzo being hit
Friday was a day of catcalls and curtain calls at Wrigley Field.
And one thing is certain: The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is on again, and it's as hot as it's been in some years.
This was going to be a story about Starlin Castro, his 2-home-run day and a curtain call from the fans that had him smiling from ear to ear after an 8-3 Cubs victory.
We'll get to that and give Starlin his props.
But this just in: Cubs manager Joe Maddon wrote a new chapter in the ancient book of Cubs vs. Cardinals.
The scene was the bottom of the seventh inning with the Cubs already leading 8-3, thanks largely to Castro and his 6 RBI.
With two outs, Cubs MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo stepped to the plate and was hit in the back of the legs by Cardinals relief pitcher Matt Belisle.
Home-plate umpire Dan Bellino immediately ejected Belisle and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Rizzo, who leads the league in being hit by pitches (29), was hit by reliever Tyler Lyons in the fourth.
Cubs starting pitcher Dan Haren had hit pinch hitter Matt Holliday on the batting helmet with one out and a runner at second base in the top of the fifth inning. Bellino warned both benches, as the St. Louis bench spewed invective toward Haren.
Maddon had no doubt the Cardinals hit Rizzo in retaliation, and he was ready for my question about it.
"I'm really disappointed in what the Cardinals did right there," Maddon said. "Absolutely, we did not hit their guy on purpose at all. That was an absolute mistake. There's no malicious intent whatsoever on Dan Haren's part. None. So to become this vigilante group that all of a sudden wants to get their own pound of flesh, that's absolutely insane, ridiculous and wrong.
"Furthermore, we don't start stuff, but we will stop stuff. We will end stuff. That's their call. That was their moment right there."
The Cardinals have created a mystique of playing baseball "the right way." Maddon blew that out of the water, too.
"I never read that particular book that the Cardinals wrote way back in the day," he said. "I'm a big Branch Rickey fan, but I never read the book the Cardinals had written on how to play baseball … Furthermore, that particular book you guys got was written right around the turn of the last century, like 1900, when it took several singles to score a run as opposed to one big guy coming up and hitting a home run."
Maddon also dismissed the notion that the pitch at Rizzo just got away from Belisle.
"Of course not, of course not," he said. "That is ridiculous. I don't want to hear that. I don't want to talk here about pitching inside. I don't want to hear any of that (stuff)."
Maddon got in one more zinger: "I don't know who put out the hit. I don't if Tony Soprano was in the dugout today. I didn't see him in there. We're not going to put up with that."
Belisle pleaded innocent.
"Obviously there was a warning, but I had to try to pitch in, so what can you do?" he said. "I have to pitch in, it's part of my game, it's part of me being successful up here."
Rizzo let the clubhouse before reporters entered. Haren is a former Cardinal who knows retaliation is part of that team's culture.
"It was expected," he said. "I apologized to Rizzo after I hit Holliday. I said, 'Sorry if you get hit.' Rizzo knew I wasn't doing it on purpose. It's the tying run at second base. I pitched Holliday in many times. Going inside is one of the only places I can go. I just lost it. The ball just popped out of my hand. I hope they know it wasn't on purpose.
"Being there before, they always police things like that."
Aside from the fireworks, the third-place Cubs improved to 86-61 and pulled within 6 games of the first-place Cardinals (92-55) in the National League Central.
A big reason for that Friday was Castro, who had an RBI single in the first inning, a 2-run homer in the fifth and a 3-run homer in the sixth. The 6 RBI tied his career best, set in his major-league debut on May 7, 2010.
After his second homer, the Cubs fans in the crowd of 40,846 brought him out of the dugout for a curtain call.
"I think that's my biggest thing today," he said. "I have like six years here, and that happened never. That's my first time, and I enjoyed it so much."