Bud Norris silenced the Detroit Tigers hitters early in his outing Saturday night by pitching inside effectively, but when his 113th and final pitch sailed inside and hit right fielder Torii Hunter, it wasn't received well.
Tempers flared and both teams' benches and bullpens emptied as Norris and Hunter jawed at each other, an outburst that provided more fireworks than the Orioles' offense in a 4-1 loss to the Tigers in front of an announced 24,517 at Camden Yards.
Norris had just allowed a two-run homer to Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler with two outs in the eighth inning, a dagger that spoiled an otherwise strong night for the Orioles right-hander.
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Two pitches later, Norris hit Hunter with a 93-mph fastball on an 0-1 count.
While Hunter emphatically yelled at Norris and players and coaches came onto the field, home plate umpire James Hoye ejected Norris from the game.
Both Norris and catcher Steve Clevenger said it was unintentional, that Norris' game plan from the early innings was to pitch inside against a Tigers team that likes to extend their bats through the zone.
“You know, obviously he didn't like it,” Norris said. “He's entitled to his opinion, but I think he did overreact a little bit. I didn't like the first swing he took on my slider, so I didn't think I was going to jump out to the other half of the plate again.
“I know I worked inside, on both sides of the plate with Clevenger all day and got some ground balls in. Tried to throw a four-seamer in. He didn't like it, and I guess he did overreact if that's the way he feels.”
Hunter obviously thought otherwise at the time, especially since it came right after Kinsler's homer.
“I've been around a long time, when you see a pitching coach come out there and the guy just hit a home run maybe to calm him down, maybe he shouldn't have been in the game," Hunter said. "But to get hit, 94 [mph] in the ribs right after that, yeah, even if he didn't try to do it, it still looks fishy.
“I don't know if he did it on purpose or not. I thought he pitched a tremendous game and that happened.”
The ejection didn't make too much sense inside the Orioles clubhouse. Clevenger pointed out that Tigers left-hander Ian Krol threw a pair of high-and-tight fastballs past Nick Markakis.
“We've been working in all game long,” Clevenger said. “Krol came in the last inning and buzzed Nicky a couple times and nothing was said, but when we worked in and got hit, he ejected him. I don't agree with the call, but the call is the call.”
Norris said he thought the ejection was initiated by Hunter's reaction.
“His reaction kind of stirred the umpire, too, stirred up their bench, too,” Norris said. It's kind of a weird time. Because he says something, I'm immediately tossed? It's a little frustrating. To be tossed in that situation. I've never been tossed in my career, first time. And we'll see what happens from here.”
But from the umpires' perspective, Norris was the instigator.
“Kinsler hits a two-run homer and then the next hitter gets drilled,” crew chief Bob Davidson said. “I thought [James] Hoye handled it properly. I think that's what anybody would have done. It's a fastball that drilled the guy in the ribs, and I think Hoye did the right thing. That's pretty much what it was.
“As an umpire, it wasn't rocket science. I really think that that was the right thing to do.”
The two players continued yelling at each other even as Norris was walking back to the Orioles dugout.
“I think Bud Norris was the instigator in that position again,” Hoye said.