PITTSBURGH - Baseball rules are complicated enough without trying to make sense of the unwritten rules.
Yet that's where we are after the weekend series in Arizona left Andrew McCutchen livid over a fastball that drilled him in the back.
McCutchen was hit in apparent retaliation for a rising inside fastball that hit the Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt.
Goldschmidt sustained a fracture in his hand and is expected to be sidelined for the rest of the season.
That doesn't affect the pennant race since the Diamondbacks aren't a contender, but it could affect ticket sales. Goldschmidt is one of the few good players on a dreary team.
He's Arizona's best player. So by baseball protocol, that made McCutchen vulnerable to the payback.
It came in the ninth inning on Saturday, a fastball that hit McCutchen right in the middle of the two "2's" on the back of his jersey.
It didn't come until the ninth inning, which was apparently a breach of those tricky unwritten rules. Would it somehow be better (or less painful) if McCutchen had been hit on his first trip to the plate?
Pitcher Randall Delgado became a hero to his teammates by hitting McCutchen. The pitch probably also earned him some points with manager Kirk Gibson, an old school type.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle says there's no connection between the pitch that hit McCutchen and the rib injury that developed on a swing in Sunday's game. There's no way to be certain about that.
No matter if the two are related, there's no doubt the pitch in the back inflicted some serious pain. Baseballs might be nice and round, but when they're thrown in anger, they pack the same impact as a rock.
McCutchen didn't try to hide his pain. He pounded at the dirt, reached for his back then angrily slammed down the bat. If the Diamondbacks wanted to get a reaction, they succeeded on that count.
Was there intent by Delgado? Undoubtedly. He took aim and fired.
Was there intent by Ernesto Frieri, the Pirates pitcher who hit Goldschmidt. Highly doubtful. The Pirates had no reason to throw at Goldschmidt. Anyone who has watched Frieri's work since he joined the Pirates in June knows that he often has no idea where the ball is going.
It's interesting that when home plate collisions are being eliminated, it's still OK to use baseballs as weapons.
But that's just intimidation, which has always been part of the game and probably always will be.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.