As Jeff Francoeur stepped to the plate in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game, he thought there might be the chance Yankees starter A.J. Burnett would hit him with a pitch.
In the previous inning, Royals reliever Nathan Adcock had nailed Yankees No. 5 hitter Robinson Cano in his batting helmet, knocking the second baseman out of the game.
Francoeur knows pitchers will defend their hitters, sometimes in the form of a reciprocal beaning, so the possibility crossed his mind.
Sure enough, on the third pitch of the at-bat, Burnett hit Francoeur in his left shoulder blade, leaving the right fielder to believe he was hit intentionally, although he understood the reasons if it were intentional.
“The only reason I thought he did was he was missing out over the plate all night and the first one is kind of high and in but at the same time, whether he was or not, that’s part of the game,” Francoeur said. “We hit their five hitter in the head so I know A.J. and even if he did, he did it professionally and hit me in the back and that was it. I got no problem with that, it’s part of the game and that’s how it is.”
While Burnett denied any intent after the game, Francoeur and Royals manager Ned Yost both thought the Yankees starter hit Francoeur on purpose.
“Of course it was [intentional],” Yost said. “Adcock is a rookie. We didn’t hit Cano. Cano’s a great player and that was an absolute accident. I didn’t think Burnett hitting Francoeur was an accident. That’s the way the game goes sometimes.”
With two out and none on in the fifth, Adcock hit Cano in the front of the batting helmet, knocking the Yankees star to the ground. While Cano got up and laughed and smiled during some testing, he was eventually pulled from the game.
"It just got away. I went two pitches on the outside corner and you have to pitch in to pitch in the big leagues. It was no purpose hitting him in the head or anything like that," Adcock said. "It was nothing against the Yankees or Cano or anybody. It was trying to pitch in and planning to go outside corner to open up the outside corner of the plate but there was no purposeful aim in the hit at all.”
In the top of the sixth, with one man and one out, Francoeur came to the plate. On a 1-1 pitch, Burnett hit Francoeur, putting the tying run in scoring position. Burnett managed to work out of trouble and preserve the Yankees 2-1 lead.
“[I] hit him. That’s all you can say,” Burnett said. “I don’t think anybody wants to hit a guy with a runner on and one out and a one-run lead or whatever it was.
He later added: “The thing of it is, I know Jeff too, so that’s even worse -- when you know somebody and you end up hitting him. But, you know, balls get away. I had five, six walks tonight, so I wasn’t exactly pinpoint.”
While Francoeur said his back was still sore after the game, joking that getting hit by a pitch from the hard-throwing Burnett isn’t like getting hit by Royals starter Bruce Chen, he had no problems with Burnett. Francoeur even bounced back later in the game to give the Royals a 3-2 lead in the 10th inning with an RBI double.
“At the end of the day I know what type of guy A.J. is,” Francoeur said. “I know for sure if he did do it, he did it professionally and it was done with.”