CINCINNATI — Just because the guys in the upper-floor offices in the fancy building next to Wrigley Field aren’t trying to win this year doesn’t mean the guys in Cubs uniforms aren’t fighting every day.
Especially in the eighth and ninth innings Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.
Sparks finally flew on a muggy, gray night when Cubs reliever Rowan Wick and Reds star Joey Votto had words over some tight pitches and Votto’s eventual bat flip on an eighth-inning walk — followed a half-inning later by Cubs manager David Ross’ getting ejected during a “discussion” resulting from Patrick Wisdom getting hit by a Hunter Strickland pitch.
Wisdom eventually scored on Nico Hoerner’s two-out pinch single before rookie Chris Morel struck out to strand the potential tying run at third in a 4-3 loss.
“All I said was nice bat flip,” said Wick, who actually appeared to sprinkle at least another four syllables starting with "mother" and who still seemed chapped about an hour later in the clubhouse. “I understand he’s been in the league a long time, and he can do whatever he wants when he walks.
“On my side, I was not happy at all with the pitches that I threw, so I let the emotions get the best of me,” Wick added. “I got a little frustrated. But I felt like he kind of blew it out of the water a little more than it needed to me.”
Specifically, Votto -- who was brushed back out of the box during the at-bat (to a significant chorus of boos from the fans) -- kept jawing at Wick from first base after the walk.
“I heard him but I wasn’t going to turn around and start anything,” Wick said. “I was just focused on getting the next guy.”
Said Votto: “He had something to say and I answered. That’s how ball is sometimes. … If someone says something to me, sometimes I don’t answer, but I wasn’t in the mood to keep my mouth shut. It’s part of the game. It can be one of the more enjoyable parts of the game, you know, competing, some talk.
“Generally speaking, I enjoy that part as long as the other party is fine with taking it. You give it to me, no problem; I’ll f—ing give it back, you know.”
It all might have been forgotten quickly if not for Strickland’s one-out plunking of Wisdom and the umpire crew’s subsequent reluctance to gather for a routine huddle to discuss Strickland’s intent and whether to warn the benches or eject Strickland.
“Typically with what happened the inning before with Joey walking towards Wick and them not doing a whole lot, the them hitting Wisdom and two umpires wanting to discuss whether they thought it was intentional or not and nobody doing that, I just didn’t understand why,” Ross said.
So he left the dugout to “ask” why.
And after quickly being ejected by home plate ump Dan Merzel, Ross stayed long enough to gesture at every umpire, at least two of the bases and then have a “conversation” with crew chief Chris Conroy that lasted long enough for bench coach Andy Green to eventually head to the field to retrieve his manager.
“The courtesy of respecting the players, to see if it’s on purpose — which I don’t know whether it was or not,” Ross said, “but them not getting together, with two guys wanting to get together and another guy not wanting them to get together was the frustrating part to me.”
For what it’s worth, Strickland said it wasn’t intentional.
“I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but it definitely maybe appeared that way,” Wick said. “Don’t know. See what happens tomorrow.”
Whether he’s referring to possible MLB action or other kinds of action, the Cubs and Reds wrap up their four-game series with an early game Thursday before heading home for an off day.