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Old school baseball: Pirates-Diamondbacks beanball handled perfectly

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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale highlights injuries to Shohei Ohtani and Stephen Strasburg, while touching on a pair of teams who are surprising the league. USA TODAY Sports

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PHOENIX — It was a clean, old-school, beanball war, one that was routine a generation ago, and one that’s so bungled these days.

There was intent. There was retaliation. Five batters were hit, two intentionally. Another was knocked down.

And, oh, so beautifully, not a single ejection, warning, no one charged the mound and hopefully no fines in Monday night’s Arizona Diamondbacks-Pittsburgh Pirates game.

It was old-school baseball at its finest, taking care of business immediately, without the slightest sign of lingering hostility.

“You play the game and you protect your teammates,’’ Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s been going on for 135 years or so.’’

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And yet, in this era, it’s a tradition that is disappearing before our eyes.

“I’m not a big fan of taking a baseball and throwing it at somebody as hard as you can,’’ Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I know that there are some old-school baseball thoughts and old-school baseball traditions that are still followed.

“I think there’s other ways that you can go out and operate and make things hurt when something like that happens.’’

Still, despite the differing viewpoints, these knockdowns and retaliatory pitches between two hard-nosed teams was handled perfectly by each team, each manager, and veteran umpire Jim Wolf.

The only collateral damage was a Pirates’ loss with starter Joe Musgrove costing his team the game by protecting his teammates. He was cruising with a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning, intentionally hit center fielder Chris Owings to lead off the inning, and the next thing anyone knew, the D-backs had a 9-5 victory.

“If it was retaliation,’’ Lovullo said, “it certainly cost their pitcher a couple of runs and might have cost them a win.”

Well, it was a retaliatory pitch, Musgrove made perfectly clear in the Pirates’ clubhouse, angry that teammate Josh Harrison was hit in the left shoulder in top of the seventh inning, and Austin Meadows followed by barely avoided being hit by an errant pitch near his head. It didn’t matter that Braden Shipley, who was recalled earlier in the day, simply had little control. Musgrove felt it was time to take a stand.

“I’m not trying to come in here and be the hero or be a bad-ass guy who’s going to hit guys right and left,” Musgrove told reporters afterwards. “But J-Hay is one of our big guys. If you go up and in at him like that in a spot like that, that’s not something we’re OK with, me especially. …

“That’s how I was raised to play the game. You protect your teammates, especially when a guy like that gets hit high up. (Harrison) got hit 25 or so times last year and got hit in the hand earlier this year with the same injury as last year, and that’s something that we don’t want to allow to happen anymore.”

The D-backs, angry with Musgrove’s interpretation, didn’t charge the mound. They simply did their talking with the bats, and got the last laugh as they wound up scoring nine unanswered runs, increasing their lead to three games in the NL West.

“I think we certainly did what we needed to do to retaliate,’’ Lovullo said, “in the most cleanest, purest way possible.”

On the other side, while Musgrove lost the battle — with the Pirates losing for the 17th time in 23 games — he may still have won the war. The Pirates weren’t talking about their loss afterwards, but their respect for Musgrove, acquired in January from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade.

Remember, this is the same guy two weeks ago who came barreling into second base against Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez, trying to avenge Anthony Rizzo’s hard slide earlier in the series, triggering a bench-clearing incident.

This time, he took it upon himself to take action again.

“They can say the ball slipped,” Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon told the Athletic. “It’s not our job to judge intent. All I can tell you is J-Hay gets pitched in a lot. And even if it’s not on purpose, J-Hay gets hit way too much. I get sick of seeing him get spun around up there — sick of it.

“Something needs to be done by the staff and Joe did it for us.”

And, everyone in the Pirates’ clubhouse took notice, and Harrison, who missed six weeks earlier in the season after being hit by a pitch, expressed his appreciation.

“It felt good,’’ Harrison said of Musgrove’s retaliation, even knowing that Shipley’s pitches weren’t deliberate. “It wasn’t intentional, but you throw it too hard to be throwing it high at the head, and you never want anybody to get hurt.’’

Certainly, the D-backs understood, with saying he appreciated being hit only in the backside with his 95-mph fastball.

“I’m glad it hit me below the belt,’’ Owings said. “That was nice.’’

It was no different in the ninth inning when D-backs closer Brad Boxberger came in and drilled Sean Rodriguez — his former teammate with the Tampa Bay Rays — in the hip.

Yes, sending his own message.

Once again, no one charged the mound. No warning from Wolf. No screams from the dugout.

“I’ve played with Boxy,’’ Rodriguez said. “I’m cool with it. He did what he had to do. He did it clean by hitting me in the hip. That’s part of the game. I know MLB analysts might say that’s something that needs to be outlawed, but that’s just the game policing itself. There’s a right and a wrong way to do it. I was brought up old school. If you’ve got your boys’ backs, you let everybody know it.

“Both sides tried to do that, and it was clean, both ways.”

Just an evening of old-fashioned baseball.

In this era of spin rates, exit velocities and launch angles, it was rather refreshing.

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