Miami Marlins starting pitcher Pablo López was ejected after hitting Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. on the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning Friday night at Truist Park.
After the hit-by-pitch, Braves manager Brian Snitker emerged from the dugout in anger, especially because of this being a pretty regular occurrence over the last few years when the Marlins face Acuña. And after the umpires met to discuss how to handle the matter, crew chief and second base umpire Dan Iassogna decided to eject Lopez.
Marlins SP Pablo Lopez hit Acuña with the first pitch of the game and was immediately ejected. pic.twitter.com/mNe841rWbe
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 2, 2021
After the ejection, Marlins manager Don Mattingly — to go with Miami pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — was also ejected after getting his money’s worth. He was quite displeased.
Don Mattingly right now: pic.twitter.com/g8LzksKolb
— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) July 2, 2021
Both sides are understandable here.
Again, there’s a history, with Acuña getting hit by a pitch five times vs the Marlins in 52 career games. He’s an absolute superstar, and when there’s bad blood between two division rivals, the best player getting hit by a pitch certainly looks suspicious- and naturally gets the team of that batter even more defensive and irritated. It also has the umpires more on alert, and that pitch did look like an intentional hit-by-pitch frequently looks. So, of course the Braves were furious and suggesting it was intentional, and it’s understandable how the umpires came to the ejection conclusion as well.
But is Lopez really trying to hit Acuña on the first pitch of the game? While the last-place Marlins — 8.5 games back in the NL East — may not have realistic playoff chances (granted, they do have the division’s best run differential at +20!), you’d think they wouldn’t want their very good starting pitcher — Lopez entered with a 2.87 ERA — intentionally throwing at the first batter of the game and potentially getting ejected. That immediately significantly decreases their chances to win a game, and forces them to have to use — and exhaust — their bullpen for 27 outs. Perhaps it was simply a two-seamer that got away from Lopez, and sometimes it takes pitchers time to get feel of their command in a game. Mattingly did seem genuinely shocked about the ejection.
Oh, and that baserunner literally ended up being the difference in the game. Acuña came around to score on an Ozzie Albies sacrifice fly, and the Braves won 1-0.