CHICAGO | The two most combustible Cubs went at it like matter and anti-matter during their 8-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Friday, furthering angering manager Lou Piniella at both his team and a media member.
Catcher Michael Barrett earned a trip to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a cut lip after fighting twice in the fifth inning with emotional batterymate Carlos Zambrano, first in the dugout and then the clubhouse.
Barrett also apparently had a verbal altercation in the dugout with shortstop Ryan Theriot that may have led to his banishment to the clubhouse, where the brawl with Zambrano resumed and Barrett likely sustained his lip injury. The two players have lockers near each other.
But the conflict did not end there. Piniella angrily departed his post-game media session after taking a shot at his team. A half hour later, Piniella came out of his office in the clubhouse to tell ESPN-1000's Bruce Levine that his post-game question about whether the Cubs were disorganized was "unfair."
Even after all the chaos of the past three seasons, the Cubs are unraveling like never before with play during a 6-15 downslide that has even underwhelmed last season's 66-96 disaster. They are now 22-30, but amazingly still in the National League Central race.
Tensions were high anyway after Zambrano struggled through the first four innings, giving up eight hits with poor fielding by Theriot and left fielder Alfonso Soriano making matters worse. Then it all exploded in the fifth, after Zambrano allowed three more hits and two walks.
With Braves starter Kyle Davies batting, Barrett was charged with a passed ball. Trying to recover, Barrett then threw past third in attempting to snare Braves runner Paul Orr.
That play apparently prompted Zambrano to take a swing at Barrett as players, coaches and Piniella tried to keep them apart.
Piniella sent Zambrano to the clubhouse to shower and go home, but originally planned to keep Barrett in the game. He did not comment on whether Barrett's argument with Theriot caused Barrett also to be pulled.
Both Piniella and assistant Cubs general manager Randy Bush said the manager will talk to both Zambrano and Barrett today before deciding on disciplinary action.
Piniella slowly raised his voice as he chastised his Cubs before angrily exiting stage left after explaining the brawl during his post-game media session.
"You don't like to see some of the silliness that's going on the field," he said. "I only have so many players that I can play.
"It's about time some of them start playing like major leaguers. Or get somebody else in here that can catch a damn ball or run the bases properly. All right? That's all I can say."