Sanders Has a Brawl in Near-Perfect Game : Baseball: Cincinnati outfielder charges mound, clears benches in eighth inning when hit by pitch from Expos’ Martinez, who was perfect until then.
Reggie Sanders wasn’t happy when Pedro Martinez pitched him inside twice earlier in the game, resulting in two strikeouts.
So, when Martinez tried it a third time and plunked Sanders on the elbow, the Cincinnati Red outfielder charged the mound, triggering your typical bench-clearing incident.
Only this time, Sanders charged the mound to attack a pitcher five outs from throwing a perfect game.
“I don’t think there is any (way) a pitcher throwing a perfect game is going to hit somebody on purpose,” Montreal Manager Felipe Alou said after a strange, 3-2 victory over the Reds.
“It was just a normal day,” said Martinez, who lost the no-hitter in the ninth.
It was anything but ordinary.
Martinez, younger brother of the Dodgers’ Ramon Martinez, had a 2-0 lead with one out in the eighth when he hit Sanders with an 0-2 pitch.
Sanders charged the mound, tackled Martinez and touched off an incident that lasted several minutes.
“There was no way I was trying to hit him,” said Martinez, who had come high and inside on both of Sanders’ previous at-bats before striking out the slugger. “I guess he took it the wrong way. I was surprised he charged out. Surprised, but not afraid.”
Said Montreal catcher Darrin Fletcher: “He had come up and in before. He brushed Sanders back in his first two at-bats, and Sanders gave him a long stare. What surprised me was Martinez stared right back.”
Sanders was ejected, and Martinez regained his composure to strike out Roberto Kelly on a pitch in the dirt. With Willie Greene at the plate, the 22-year-old right-hander threw a wild pitch that sent pinch-runner Jerome Walton to third. Greene then flied to center.
“You have to have a spirit of forgiveness in this game,” Alou said. “Martinez is a guy of 155 pounds. I’d like to see Sanders charge one of those big 220-pound specimens.”
Martinez was trying to become the second pitcher in a week to throw a no-hitter in his first complete game. Kent Mercker of the Atlanta Braves did it against the Dodgers last Friday night.
Martinez, who was 0-4 in four previous big league starts, struck out eight, walked none and was unafraid to come inside.
“It wasn’t just Reggie,” Cincinnati Manager Davey Johnson said of Sanders, who wasn’t available after the game. “He (Martinez) was up around the chin of three other guys. You don’t take those things lightly.”
Brian Dorsett ended the no-hit bid with a clean leadoff single to center in the ninth. John Wetteland (1-1) relieved, gave up a single to pinch-hitter Thomas Howard, then walked Tony Fernandez. Barry Larkin and Hal Morris followed with sacrifice flies, giving Wetteland his second blown save in two chances this season.
Montreal won it in the ninth on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Lou Frazier. Fletcher, who homered twice and went four for four for the first four-hit game of his career, singled off Chuck McElroy (1-1). Cliff Floyd reached on an infield single with two out and Frazier blooped a single off Hector Carrasco, ending the Reds’ six-game winning streak.
Jose Rijo gave up five hits in eight innings, struck out four and walked one.
“I feel lucky,” Rijo said. “Any time you get a no-decision in a game where someone almost pitches a perfect game, you know God must be smiling upon you.”