As much as Patrick Corbin deserves to be the centerpiece of Wednesday's matchup between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, the aftermath of an unsightly benches-clearing brawl between the NL West rivals shifts into focus.
Tuesday's fracas encouraged the Dodgers Stadium organist to play the theme song from the movie "Rocky" when order was restored. That's how bad things got before a 5-3 win for Los Angeles in the middle contest of this three-game set.
Tempers began to simmer when Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke pegged Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross leading off the top of the fifth, so Arizona starter Ian Kennedy responded by hitting Dodgers prized newcomer Yasiel Puig in the face with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Puig, who later made his presence felt with a few swings and finger points in the brawl, writhed in pain before taking first base. Puig then came home to score on Andre Ethier's ensuing game-tying homer.
The seventh inning is where everything got ugly.
Arizona catcher Miguel Montero was hit by a Greinke pitch in the top of the frame and the tension at Chavez Ravine began to swell. Benches cleared but no punches were thrown. Luis Cruz popped out to start the bottom of the seventh and Kennedy beaned Greinke on the upper part of his left shoulder, causing benches to clear again, mostly L.A.'s, and provocative words to be exchanged.
Williams then faced the challenge of controlling a heated Mark McGwire, who is the Dodgers' batting coach. McGwire was red-faced and animated, and even gave Gibson a piece of his mind. Several involved were ejected and there's no doubt fines and suspensions will be levied. There were no serious injuries reported except maybe a sore body for D'backs assistant hitting coach Turner Ward, who was bent over a dugout railing as if it was a Royal Rumble.
Dodgers legendary announcer Vin Scully described the melee as a "mess" and said there's no sense in naming participants because "they're all there."
"It got pretty ugly," Montero said. "Everybody came out of nowhere throwing punches and punches. It was like 25 against 72. All their DL guys were out there, too."
League rules state that disabled players may be with the team in the dugout, but can't enter the field of play at any moment during the game. It appeared Dodgers injured starter Josh Beckett was at the front line of defense for his teammates. Hanley Ramirez, who's not on the DL but nursing a balky hamstring, was on the field, too.
When play resumed Willie Bloomquist gave the Diamondbacks a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth inning. The advantage was short-lived as Tim Federowicz completed the scoring with a three-run double in the home half and the Dodgers went on to snap a three-game slide and win for the fifth time in 11 tries. Matt Guerrier earned the win by getting the last two outs in the eighth and Kenley Jansen posted his third save with two strikeouts in the ninth.
Greinke, who broke his left collarbone back in April during a brawl with the San Diego Padres, tossed seven innings of two-run ball in the no-decision. He talked briefly about the action-packed evening.
"I thought there was a possibility they were going to throw at me, but I went up there thinking it would be a normal at-bat," Greinke said. "I don't want to talk anymore about the incident. I felt I had pretty good control of all of my pitches tonight."
Kennedy was charged with two runs on four hits over 6 1/3 inning before his ejection. David Hernandez was pegged with the loss after giving up Federowicz's crucial three-run double. It didn't help that Hernandez walked three batters leading up to the big blow.
Gibson described Kennedy's pitch that ignited the fray.
"A pitch got away and they responded and things got out of control," Gibson said. "Mark (McGwire) was mad, thinking we threw at Greinke. I didn't order to hit him. That's baseball. Things got out of control. Sometimes you throw inside and it gets away from you."
Arizona had won five in a row against Los Angeles and is still 10-3 in the last 13 trips to Dodger Stadium. The D'backs are one game ahead of Colorado for the NL West lead and two games in front of San Francisco. L.A. is last in the standings at 7 1/2 games off the pace.
Meanwhile, Corbin will try to become the majors' first 10-game winner Wednesday in the finale of this three-game series.
Corbin sports a 9-0 mark and a 1.98 earned run average in 12 starts this season and the Diamondbacks have yet to lose with him on the mound. The previous time Arizona suffered defeat with Corbin on the hill was last Sept. 27 at San Francisco in a 7-3 loss.
The left-handed Corbin did not record a decision his last time out in Friday's 3-1 win over the Giants and held the defending champions to a run in 7 1/3 innings. Corbin, who has lasted at least six innings in every start this season, was trying to become the first Diamondbacks pitcher to win at least eight consecutive decisions since Brandon Webb's club-record 11 in a row from Sept. 22-May 5, 2000.
Corbin is 4-0 in six road outings and defeated Los Angeles back on April 12 in his second start of the campaign. He hurled six scoreless frames in a 3-0 win and is 2-1 with a 1.33 ERA in four games (3 starts) against the Dodgers.
Corbin, the NL's Pitcher of the Month for May, is looking to become the first D'backs hurler to start 10-0 and is currently tied with Brandon Webb (2008) for the best start in club history. He hopes to become the third pitcher in the last 25 years to win his first 10 decisions. Roger Clemens did it in 1997 (11) and Aaron Small turned the trick in 2005 (10).
Runs may be hard to come by for Arizona Wednesday because Dodgers rookie hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to take the hill. Ryu has allowed one run over his last two starts and has 13 strikeouts to one walk in that time. The Korean left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.51 earned run average in his past five starts and did not figure into the decision of Friday's 2-1 win over Atlanta.
Ryu limited the Braves to just a run in 7 2/3 innings in that one, one start after hurling a two-hit shutout versus the LA Angels on May 28. Ryu is 6-2 in 12 starts with a 2.72 ERA and 4-1 in six starts at Dodgers Stadium, where he owns a 1.50 ERA.
In his only appearance against Arizona on April 13 at Chase Field, Ryu tossed six innings of three-run ball in a 7-5 win. That was Ryu's first career start on the road.