Boos rained down on Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick all Tuesday night, from the moment his name was spoken in pregame introductions at Angel Stadium to the last time he caught a flyout in the eighth inning.
But the jeers grew particularly lusty about 90 minutes before the Angels defeated the Astros 7-2 amid an altercation sparked when Marisnick was hit by a pitch.
The sixth-inning incident occurred nine days after Marisnick flattened Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy on a home-plate collision, leading to a two-game suspension and undisclosed fine from MLB. Lucroy was knocked unconscious, suffered a broken nose and could miss up to three weeks.
Marisnick, a Riverside native who is appealing his suspension, anticipated retaliation. He was plunked in the shoulder in a 1-and-1 count by Angels reliever Noe Ramirez. Marisnick wore the 90-mph fastball without protest and calmly took his base.
Ramirez said he had no intention of hitting Marisnick.
“I was just trying to sneak a fastball by him,” he said. “I threw two sliders away. I think the scouting report on me is I might sneak a fastball in there after a couple off-speed pitches. I tried to sneak one by him in, and it just got away from me.”
But Marisnick’s teammates and manager took exception to how high Ramirez’s errant pitch rode. The heater might have hit Marisnick in the neck if he had not recoiled and shielded himself with his shoulder.
“If they’re going to hit guys, they need to hit guys the right way,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “They don’t need to throw two ... sliders and throw at a guy in the neck area. It’s not right. It’s not the right way to do it even if you’re allowed to do it, which apparently you are nowadays.”
After Ramirez tossed a pick-off throw, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols stepped off the bag and toward the Astros’ first-base dugout. He appeared to be yelling at Astros players, including pitchers Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr.
McCullers told the Houston Chronicle that he didn’t say anything to provoke Pujols’ ire. Pujols declined to comment on the situation, which forced first-base umpire Mark Wegner to intervene and prompted players in both bullpens and the Angels dugout to spill onto the field for backup.
Most of the Astros dugout stayed behind the railing, partially at the behest of Marisnick, who was waving them back. After a few moments, in which there was no apparent physical altercation, the field was cleared and play resumed.
“Wasn’t everybody expecting something to happen with Jake tonight? The entire industry probably expected it,” Hinch said. “Our guy got suspended for an unintentional act. They got a free shot...
“He knew he was going to get hit. Our guys talked about it, their guys talk about it. This is not a surprise. I wish they would have handled it better. It was too high.”
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow doubled down on those comments in an interview with Houston radio station 790 AM on Wednesday morning.
“I think as a pitcher it’s probably hard to exactly pinpoint when you’re gonna hit the guy,” he said. “You’re throwing a fastball in and sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down. I do think it’s BS that the ball was thrown up and I certainly hope there wasn’t intent. But when there’s a retaliation like that and the ball is thrown up, I think there needs to be some price to pay – not from us but from Major League Baseball. We’ll see what happens there but I think this is the end of it.”
On July 7 in Houston, Marisnick barreled through Lucroy with a shoulder-first dive at the plate while trying to score from third. Lucroy, who was not in the direct path to the plate, had to be carted from the field, and was scheduled to undergo noninvasive surgery to repair his broken nose Tuesday.
“Once [my nose] starts to get in place, if there’s no bleeding or anything, I should be able to start some activities,” Lucroy said Sunday.
In the aftermath of the controversial collision, Marisnick maintained his intent was not to injure Lucroy.
“I’m running at one speed. I’m tagging from third base, I’m running in a straight line to home plate, I’m not coming all the way around,” Marisnick said before Tuesday’s game. “It makes the play a little tricky and just the timing of the throw, the way I perceived the throw coming in, I didn’t watch the throw. I was watching his reaction to the throw. At the end of the day, I had less than a second.”
However, he was suspended for violating rule 6.01(i), “which is designed to protect catchers from precisely this type of collision,” Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, said as part of an official statement released by the commissioner’s office.
“It’s not what I wanted. It was an unfortunate play back in Houston; I feel terrible about it,” Marisnick said. “To come here and have some of this go down, it sucks.”
With his appeal still to be settled, Marisnick entered this week’s series eligible to play. After sitting out Monday’s series opener in Anaheim, he was booed loudly Tuesday.
When he got hit in the sixth, large portions of the crowd stood and cheered. Marisnick stayed in the game, stole second and advanced to third on a fly ball before being stranded there.
“The fans were brutal over the dugout. He was certainly the villain tonight,” Hinch said. “I think he handled himself well. He was actually a guy that was trying to calm the issue down whenever there was a little bit of chirping.”