Intentional plunkings come under fire after Urena hits Acuna

NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge saw Jose Urena’s plunking of Ronald Acuna Jr. before the Yankees played a day game Thursday, and he felt Acuna’s pain. The reigning AL home run leader knows that with so many big flies comes a risk that some disgruntled pitcher may try burying a fastball in your ribs.

“Oh yeah, it’s happened before,” New York’s star slugger said.

Throwing at a batter for hitting home runs? That’s what many think Urena did, including Mets broadcaster and former big league first baseman Keith Hernandez, who defended Urena’s plunking of Atlanta’s breakout rookie. Mostly, though, players and coaches around the game seem to want nothing to do with this murky unwritten rule.

The Miami right-hander sparked a benches-clearing fracas in Atlanta when he drilled Acuna in the elbow with the first pitch of a game Wednesday. Acuna had homered leading off three consecutive games and gone deep four times in the first three games of the series against the Marlins.

Acuna had a CT scan that revealed his elbow was normal, and X-rays also were negative. He was back in Atlanta’s lineup Thursday night against Colorado.

Urena claimed he was just pitching Acuna inside and missed his spot with a “bad pitch.” He was suspended six games and fined an undisclosed amount on Thursday.

The Braves — as well as the game’s umpires — believed the plunking was intentional. Braves All-Star Freddie Freeman said it “was just completely classless on Jose Urena’s part,” and manager Brian Snitker was near the front of a line of Atlanta players charging out of the dugout toward the mound.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like that in a baseball uniform,” Snitker said.

At least one prominent baseball voice thought Urena would be right to intentionally drill Acuna, though. Hernandez, the 1979 NL co-MVP, said during the Mets broadcast Wednesday night that in this case, “you got to hit him.”

“They’re killing you,” Hernandez said. “You lost three games. He’s hit three home runs. You got to hit him. I’m sorry, people aren’t going to like that. You know, you got to hit him, knock him down.”

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