My apologies; it was Al Osuna who tried to hit El Presidente when he was taking his lead off of 1st.
Man we had used to have some good ol fashioned brawls with the Expos back in the day.
MONTREAL -- This has been a baseball season punctuated by brushback pitches and bench-clearing brawls.
Friday, during a 3-1 Astros loss to Montreal at Olympic Stadium, Expos pitcher Dennis Martinez said Astros reliever Al Osuna took throwing inside to a new level. Martinez believes Osuna tried to hit him while Martinez was taking a lead off first base in the eighth inning.
To set the scene: Martinez, who has hit or buzzed several Astros hitters the last three seasons, hit Jeff Bagwell in the left arm with a pitch in the first inning. During Martinez's first two at-bats against Doug Drabek, nothing happened.
But in the eighth inning reliever Todd Jones walked Martinez on four pitches that came closer and closer and closer. Jones walked Martinez only because Martinez was backing so far out of the batter's box on the last two pitches that he became a moving target. Jones was the first of the three Astros to be ejected by home-plate umpire Steve Rippley in the inning.
"I can't say anything, guys," was all Jones would say after the game.
"Maybe I intimidated this team a few times in the past," said Martinez. "I almost wonder why it didn't happen earlier."
Said Rippley: "Jones was throwing pretty wild. See, Martinez hit somebody in the first inning, and they were going to retaliate. These two teams have bad blood."
Osuna came in to relieve Jones and, one out later, threw a pickoff throw toward first base that nearly hit Martinez in the foot. Bagwell was playing behind the runner, something Osuna, a lefthander, had to notice.
"It was a legitimate play," said Osuna. "I was trying to zing the ball over there and catch him sleeping. It's the last thing he expected."
That's for sure.
"Really, that's the first time anyone has tried to hit me at first base," said Martinez. "Bagwell was about 15 feet behind the base, so it's very obvious."
"Seemed kind of corny, didn't it?" Rippley said about the throw to first base when Bagwell was behind the runner.
When catcher Eddie Taubensee went to the mound to talk to Osuna, Rippley followed.
"Eddie was telling me what signs we were going to use with the runner at second when he (Rippley) came out and started saying some things about the play at first to me," said Osuna. "I didn't say anything. Then he started with the obscenities, started calling me some names you wouldn't bring up at the dinner table, and that's when I lost it."
Said Taubensee: "I've never seen anything like that in baseball. Al wasn't saying anything, and he (Rippley) started using some words you can't get in the paper. Al couldn't hold back."
After a 10-second, face-to-face argument, Rippley ejected Osuna, normally a mild-mannered person who is slow to get upset, much less anger.
Astros manager Art Howe raced from the dugout and was kicked out by Rippley within 30 seconds, his second ejection in the last six games.
"An umpire calls my pitcher names like that, then kicks us out and there's no repercussions," said Howe. "He (Rippley) said he (Osuna) was trying to hit Martinez. Sure, we're going to put a guy into scoring position with two outs in the eighth inning of a two-run game. That's ridiculous. This should go to the league."
It will, said Rippley. "The report will be on (NL President) Bill White's desk Monday morning," he said.
The game ended with yet another dispute between the Astros and Rippley. With a runner on third base and two outs in the ninth, Rippley called strike three on Luis Gonzalez on a pitch that seemed low. Gonzalez and third-base coach Matt Galante chased Rippley into the tunnel behind home plate.
"The last pitch of the game was not even close to being a strike," said Howe, who was watching on a TV monitor in the clubhouse. "I thought he (Rippley) was better than that."
Late inning blow-ups aside, Drabek's losing streak reached seven games, matching the longest of his career, despite another strong effort. Drabek, who gave up four hits and three runs in seven innings, continued to suffer from a lack of support in his 7-15 season.
In Drabek's 15 losses, the Astros have scored 24 runs. They have been shut out twice and scored one run six times.
The Expos scored all their runs in the first inning, a flaw that has haunted Drabek all season but particularly during his losing streak.
He has allowed 13 hits, 10 walks and 10 runs in the first inning of the last 10 games. For the season Drabek has given up 29 hits, 14 walks and 15 runs during the first inning of his 28 starts.
This time he gave up a leadoff infield single to Marquis Grissom, who stole second base. Grissom took third on Oreste Marrero's fly to deep center, but Drabek struck out Moises Alou and was on the verge of escaping the inning.
Instead, John Vander Wal sliced a double to left and catcher Darrin Fletcher launched a two-run homer to right field.
After that, Drabek allowed only an infield single to Vander Wal over the next 6 1/3 innings. But the damage had been done once again in the early going.
The Astros' offense was put on hold four times by hitting into double plays. They had seven six singles off Martinez, four of them to lead off an inning. Three times, that single was promptly followed by a double play. Another double play ended an inning.
The club record for bouncing into double plays is five, set in 1962, the first year of the team's existence. Twice this season, the Astros have hit into four double plays. For the year, they have bounced into 104 double plays, one of only four NL teams to reach triple figures in that category.
Even Steve Finley, the third-hardest player in the league to double up before Friday with three in 405 at-bats, couldn't escape the twin-killing madness Friday. He rapped into two double plays in his first three at-bats of the night.
The Astros hit into four double plays. Umpire Rippley ejected three of them in one inning. Drabek lost his seventh game in a row.
It was a night of multiple activity in Montreal.