Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about starting pitcher Kevin Gausman's outing against the Red Sox as well as the pitch that almost hit Manny Machado. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)
Since there are no lie detectors in baseball, it's impossible to know with complete certainty whether a pitcher is lying when he says he never intended to throw at a player. So everyone's going to form their own opinion about the pitch that reliever Matt Barnes sizzled behind Manny Machado's head in the eighth inning of Sunday's game between the Orioles and Boston Red Sox.
Of course, the past is prologue. The Red Sox were understandably upset after Machado's late slide Friday night knocked Boston star Dustin Pedroia out of the series with a spike wound and knee and ankle soreness. There was suspicion that some kind of retaliation might take place before they left town.
And of course, just about every pitcher denies that there was any ulterior purpose in a pitch that hits a batter, no matter the backstory.
Then you factor in the game situation: The Red Sox were leading 6-0, so if there ever were a time when one extra base runner probably wouldn't affect the outcome, well, that was it.
Barnes certainly sounded sincere when he publicly apologized to Machado during his postgame interview in the Red Sox clubhouse. But even he conceded that after Machado came within inches of a possibly serious head injury, he would feel as the Orioles did had their roles been reversed.
"People are going to think what they want,'' Barnes said, and that is probably the only thing he said that anyone can be certain is true.
Even Pedroia disavowed his role in the incident, yelling to Machado at third base later in the inning that he had nothing to do with the incident. He has said all weekend that he does not believe Machado injured him intentionally.
"I didn't have anything to do with that,'' he said. "That's not how you do that. I'm sorry to him and his team. If you're going to protect guys, you do it right away. He knows that, and both teams know that. Definitely, [a] mishandled situation.
"There was zero intention of him trying to hurt me. He just made a bad slide and did hurt me. That's baseball, man. I'm not mad at him. I love Manny Machado. Love playing against him. Love watching him. If I slid into third base and got Manny's knee, I'd know I'm going to get drilled. That's baseball. I get drilled, I go to first base. Yeah, I apologized to him. C'mon, man, no."
Pedroia said he doesn't believe Barnes was trying to hit Machado in the head, but seemed to concede that there was an intent to send a message.
Red Sox manager John Farrell stuck with the excuse that Barnes was just trying to pitch in, and that the four-seam fastball slipped, but what else was he going to say? He's got to do everything he can to keep one of his top relievers from getting suspended.