Alex Cora got his biggest compliment Thursday, one day after ending an extraordinary 18-pitch at-bat against Chicago Cub pitcher Matt Clement by smashing a two-run homer, in the second inning when the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano plunked Cora on the right elbow with a sinker.
The pitch left Cora with a bruise and forced the second baseman to leave the game before the top of the fifth, effectively removing one of the Dodgers' newly feared hitters from the lineup. Cora was listed as day to day and may play tonight against Cincinnati.
Cora said he did not think Zambrano intended to hit him during his only at-bat of the Dodgers' 7-3 loss, even though Chicago Manager Dusty Baker had taken exception to the way Cora tossed his bat after winning a battle with Clement that lasted almost 14 minutes.
"He kind of spoiled it a little bit at the end by flipping the bat," Baker said Wednesday night. "He won the battle, so you don't rub it in. But that's modern stuff, I guess."
Cora said he was so excited by his seventh-inning homer that he didn't realize he had flipped his bat.
"It was just a reaction; I didn't mean to insult anybody," he said. "I've been on the other side of that too, and I don't like that either. If somebody didn't like it, I apologize."
Zambrano said his pitch to Cora merely got away but added that Cora "didn't do anything to get out of the way."
Cora's epic at-bat, in which he fouled off 14 consecutive pitches before connecting on a hanging slider on a 2-2 count, remained the talk of the clubhouse Thursday and was shown several times on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard.
"I'm still in somewhat of amazement with that at-bat I saw last night," Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said before the game. "I've never seen a better at-bat against a pitcher of that caliber, the way he was throwing the ball."
Clement had thrown 86 pitches through six-plus innings before facing Cora but was removed immediately after giving up the two-run homer, his pitch count having reached 104.
Cora said he would always remember his refusal to give in to Clement.
"I was very relaxed and I didn't rush myself," Cora said. "I was very calm and just got the result."
Tracy said he was most impressed by Cora's ability to foul off so many consecutive pitches.
"It's not easy to foul 14 pitches off in a row, I can tell you that," Tracy said.
As the at-bat built to a climax, Dodger players stirred in excitement in the dugout and the scoreboard operator listed the tally of pitches and foul balls, bringing the fans to their feet as they roared their approval.
"It was one that I'm always going to remember," Cora said. "Some guys told me it was probably the best at-bat they've ever seen. That's a great compliment."