Cards, Dodgers agree 'Mickey Mouse' words overblown
After two LA celebrations in Game 3, errant pitch to Puig in Game 4 only coincidental
LOS ANGELES -- The Cardinals cooled their criticism of the "Mickey Mouse" Dodgers before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, and it was business as usual on Tuesday but for one wayward pitch that both sides agreed bore little intent.
At issue was Adrian Gonzalez's alleged chirping at third base in the fourth inning of Game 3 -- referred to as "Mickey Mouse stuff" by Cards starter Adam Wainwright, who heard Gonzalez heckling him, trying to induce a wild pitch -- and Yasiel Puig's frolicking triple to deep right field that followed. Puig celebrated his slump-busting hit by flipping his bat and thrusting his arms skyward, believing he'd hit a home run. When he realized he was short, Puig motored around the bases and did a dance at third base following his RBI triple.
With the sting of Monday's 3-0 loss still fresh, some Cardinals, including veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, expressed displeasure when they were asked to react. Beltran warned Puig, "You don't want to wake up nobody."
But a day later, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he had "zero problems" with either issue.
"I also had zero problems the other day when they got out of the bases-loaded jam and Yadier [Molina] pumps his fist when he gets out of a jam," Mattingly said. "To me, that's just baseball. Guys get excited. Again, I had zero problems with their celebration the way they do it, and I think our guys were excited.
"Our backs were to the wall. They've been stopping us and shutting us down. Adrian gets a big hit for us. Puig's been shut down … he hasn't been very good, and he's excited when he gets a hit. So, to me, it can't be a double standard. That's the way I look at that part of it."
Cards manager Mike Matheny believes the matter has been blown out of proportion.
"The problem was [Cardinals players] were asked how they feel. They weren't asked to define or be the ultimate authority of right and wrong in this game," Matheny said. "I think it was taken out of context. They were asked how they felt, and they didn't like it. They have that right. They really do.
"It got turned into, all of a sudden, that we're making statements on how the game should be played. And that's not it. We take care of ourselves. I want them to continue to like and dislike whatever they want. They have that freedom and that right."
Game 4, a 4-2 Cardinals win, included only one hint of drama. It came in the fourth inning, with the Cards ahead, 3-0, and St. Louis starter Lance Lynn in a jam. Gonzalez doubled and Andre Ethier walked before Puig ducked out of the way of a first-pitch high-and-tight fastball.
Puig took umbrage, but he ultimately won the mini-battle with an RBI single to center field, part of a two-run rally that cut the Cardinals' lead to 3-2.
After the game, it seemed unanimous: Lynn's errant pitch was coincidental.
"There's no intent there," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "The last thing they want to do is put somebody else on base. He threw a couple of pitches to me where he was trying to go down and away, and they ended up on the inner half. We know … that he can lose some balls to the arm side. That one just happened to creep up on the head. I understand Yasiel being a little frustrated. No one likes a baseball being thrown around their head at 95 mph. But from our perspective on the bench, there was no intent there."
"His ball runs across the plate all the time," Mattingly said. "I know they're trying to pitch [Puig] in, and it gets away. I don't think there is any message trying to be sent there."
"When you have nobody out and runners on first and second, you're definitely not trying to hit anyone or throw the ball up and in to give a situation to load the bases," Lynn said. "So there was definitely no intent there."
Right-hander Joe Kelly will take the mound in Game 5 on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET on TBS with a chance to help the Cards clinch. It would not surprise him -- or bother him -- to see emotion from either side.
"It's the playoffs," Kelly said. "It's an exciting time. Every other sport celebrates. I think that you're in that moment. I've had a lot of energy. It's just something that you're just having fun out there. I think it's something that our team will worry about and their team will worry about themselves, too."
Mattingly actually was worried about it, saying he has had a number of conversations with Puig this season about hustling out of the batter's box. In Mattingly's mind, Puig's arms-in-the-air celebration was more an issue for the Dodgers than for the Cardinals.
"Our guys, you hear them yell in our dugout, 'Run!'" Mattingly said. "Again, I think the thing was just the excitement of the game. I think it's baseball. It's postseason, and guys are committed. They care about their team. We care about our team and what's going on, so I don't think it's that big of an issue."
Gonzalez, meanwhile, denied any wrongdoing. Asked whether he was chirping at Wainwright from third base, Gonzalez insisted, "I wasn't saying anything."
"Somebody brought it up, he answered questions and now it's a big deal somehow," Gonzalez said. "It's not a big deal to us."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. MLB.com reporters Jenifer Langosch and Austin Laymance contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.