03/13/2003 12:17 AM ET
Mota hits Piazza, brawl ensues
Piazza charges mound after being hit by pitch
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Lingering bad blood between Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota and Mets catcher Mike Piazza erupted into a bench-clearing brawl Wednesday night when Mota drilled the former Dodger with a pitch.
|By Ken Gurnick and Kevin Czerwinksi / MLB.com
Mota had slugged a three-run homer in the top of the sixth of the Dodgers' 13-6 win over New York, but it didn't appear any words were exchanged when Mota crossed the plate. Piazza led off the bottom of the sixth inning and Mota threw the first pitch inside, Piazza glaring at the pitcher. The second pitch, also a fastball, nailed Piazza in the back.
Piazza dropped his bat and helmet and charged the mound. Mota threw his glove at Piazza when he arrived, then backpedaled behind the mound, then toward the Dodgers' first-base dugout as benches and bullpens emptied.
Dodger catcher David Ross caught Piazza just before he reached the mound.
"I got his arm just as he was throwing a punch," said Ross. "That's the first fight I've ever been in. I didn't know what to do."
Adrian Beltre and Brian Jordan restrained Piazza, who by this time was screaming and motioning wildly at Mota.
"If he had gotten loose, I don't know what would have happened," said Mets manager Art Howe.
Jeromy Burnitz and Joe McEwing took aim on Mota, but he was surrounded by teammates and ushered into the dugout and quickly toward the clubhouse.
"It's hard to understand why a guy would do that," said Burnitz. "But I knew after the first pitch it looked like there was some intent. Absolutely there was no doubt about it, it was premeditated."
Mota and Piazza were the only players ejected. Umpire crew chief Ed Montague, who also grabbed Piazza when the catcher made a second attempt to get at Mota, said a report will be filed with the Commissioner's Office.
Mota waved off reporters and in English said, "No comment."
He showered and dressed and walked to Brian Jordan's waiting white Range Rover, which Jordan retrieved from the parking lot and brought inside the security gates. With Jordan at the wheel, he and Mota departed with the game still in the sixth inning.
Five minutes later, Piazza left the Mets clubhouse without speaking to reporters, drove his BMW to the entrance of the Dodger clubhouse, and entered. Visibly agitated, Piazza approached equipment manager Jerry Turner, then trainer Stan Johnston.
"Where's Mota?" Piazza repeated. "Where's Mota?"
Told Mota had left, Piazza checked the trainer's room and looked into the shower, then scanned the lockers before he finally left.
Mota and Piazza have a history. In a March 4, 2002 exhibition game against the Dodgers at Port St. Lucie, Piazza was hit by an Eric Gagne pitch and Mark Guthrie retaliated by hitting Jordan with a pitch.
Mota, acquired five days earlier, faced Piazza in a March 28 exhibition game in Vero Beach and hit Piazza in the back with a pitch. Piazza waited in the Mets first-base dugout for Mota to leave the field after being removed from the game. When Mota reached the grass in shallow right field, Piazza intercepted him and grabbed the 6-foot-4 Mota by the neck until they were separated by other players. Piazza received a fine.
Dodgers manager Jim Tracy remembered last year's incident.
"Obviously, (Mota) remembers he reached up and tried to choke him a year ago. Other than that, I don't have a lot to say. It boils down to nothing more than history that started late last March and carried itself over."
Howe questioned why Mota came out for a second inning of work.
"I thought they left him out there to go after Piazza," said Howe. "That's my opinion. Someone told me they have a history. I read about it last year and after that first pitch, it kind of brought it back into my mind. He tried to get him on the first one. There was certainly intent from my viewpoint.
"But the guy ran like a scared rabbit. If he wants to hit someone, he should stay there and fight. He can backpedal faster than I can run forward. It was a set up, as far as I was concerned. I'm angry. He's my best player and I don't want guys taking potshots at my best player."
Howe said Piazza should not be suspended "for anything he did tonight."
The two teams have played each other four times in the past three days with games scheduled Saturday and Sunday in Mexico City.
"Both sides need to get this resolved and get it over with," said Tracy. "Nobody wants to start a season missing key players when you've worked as hard as we've worked to this point."
Ken Gurnick and Kevin Czerwinski are reporters for MLB.com. This article was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.