Retaliation? Cubs pitchers hit three Cardinals; Rondon, Maddon ejected

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A day after Cubs manager Joe Maddon said the Cubs “don’t start stuff but we finish stuff,” the Cubs hit three Cardinals batters Saturday.

So is it over now between these National League Central rivals?

Tune in today for the series finale.

The Cubs lead the series 2-0. They’ve hit four Cardinals batters and have been hit twice, so they’re ahead 4-2 for those of you scoring that at home. Each manager has been tossed, and Hector Rondon’s ejection in the ninth inning Sunday after Greg Garcia was hit put Cubs pitchers in a tie for heave-hos after Matt Belisle hit Anthony Rizzo Friday – an apparent retaliation for Dan Haren plunking Matt Holliday in the helmet.

“I know nobody wants to believe me,” Maddon said after Saturday’s 5-4 Cubs win. “You’re not going to believe me, the Cardinal nation — God bless you — you’re not going to want to believe me and I get it so there’s no way for me to even attempt to ameliorate your concerns. None of that was intentional. It just happens, it’s part of the game.”

Maddon and Rondon getting ejected by plate umpire Bruce Dreckman was pretty much automatic because Dreckman had warned both teams after the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong was hit a second time (first by Trevor Cahill, then by Fernando Rodney).

Rondon denied throwing at Garcia, a reasonable plea considering he’s the closer facing the leadoff man in the ninth, and that two Cardinals had already been plunked.

“Anybody in that situation would not hit a guy, especially in a close game,’’ Rondon said. “The umpire said to me, ‘I know it’s not on purpose but you have to go out.’ ’’

As Cardinals manager Mike Matheny started toward the field to make sure the ejections went down, Maddon’s plea with Dreckman was falling on deaf ears. The Cardinals rallied for three runs but came up a run short in the ninth as Pedro Strop closed them out.

“Every loss stings — I get it — there’s plenty of drama and it’s out there,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Something really good almost happened today. That would have been maybe my favorite win ever.”

Maddon had called the Cardinals “vigilantes” and characterized Belisle’s pitch behind Rizzo Friday as “Tony Soprano” type “hit.’’ Matheny wasn’t as colorful in response before Saturday’s game, only saying, “We handle our club the way we handle our club. How they handle theirs is their business.”

Before Saturday’s game, Rizzo was still perturbed over being thrown at.

“At that moment I want to kill someone because I know it’s intentional,” he said. “We didn’t hit Holliday on purpose there. At the moment you want to go out and strangle someone.”

As if the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, as good as it gets for fans and players, needed a jolt.

“It’s baseball,’’ said Cubs rookie Kris Bryant, who hit his 25th homer Saturday. “Guys are sticking up for guys. It’s fun. It adds to the excitement of where we’re at in the season.

“We’re all just playing hard and some emotions were shown. That’s OK. It’s OK for baseball, it’s OK for the rivalry. We both want to win. Today we got them and there are times when they get us. It’s just a good time.’’

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