OAKLAND -- Benches emptied and tempers flared in the seventh inning of Sunday’s 7-2 A's win over the Astros at the Coliseum after A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano took exception to being hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and charged the Astros' dugout following a shouting match with Houston hitting coach Alex Cintron.
Astros rookie pitcher Humberto Castellanos hit Laureano in the middle of the back with a 3-2 breaking pitch in the bottom of the seventh. Laureano, who was traded from the Astros in 2017, gestured toward Castellanos and exchanged words with him while walking down to first base. While Laureano was standing on first, he argued with Cintron and then charged the dugout.
Neither Laureano nor Cintron were available for comment, but A’s manager Bob Melvin said the blame for the incident shouldn’t solely be on his player based on the offensive words that were coming from the Astros dugout. TV replays showed Cintron yelling at Laureano.
“Ramón doesn’t go over there unless something completely offensive came out of the dugout,” Melvin said. “I think the league will know who that is. That person should get suspended. Hopefully, that’s the case. Nowadays, without fans in the stands and mics everywhere, my guess is they know who it was.”
A’s first baseman Matt Olson, who was on deck when Laureano was plunked, said he heard some things that “weren’t right” coming from the Houston dugout.
“Someone told him to come over to their dugout,” he said. “There was a lot of chatter going back and forth. I don’t know exactly what was said or what the deal was.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker said words are often exchanged in the heat of the moment on the field that don’t result in a player charging an opposing player or coach.
“We’re all men out there with high pride and anxiety and everything else,” he said. “These things happen when you’re on a ball field. Everybody wants you to just control your temper, which you should, but sometimes things flare out of control.”
Astros catcher Dustin Garneau, who wasn’t in the game, tackled Laureano before he reached the dugout, and both benches emptied. Laureano, who was hit by a Brandon Bailey pitch in the fifth inning, has been hit by a pitch five times this year, including three times in the Houston series.
“Not a good situation, what happened,” said Garneau, a former teammate of Laureano’s with the A’s. “I wish it could have been avoided for sure. The guy came running at our dugout. I didn’t know what else to do besides forcefully stop it, at least, before everything else got out of hand.”
Once order was restored, Laureano and A’s catcher Austin Allen were ejected. Baker had been ejected by plate umpire Nick Mahrley the previous half-inning for arguing balls and strikes.
“I told him the ball was low. He had a tough day all day,” Baker said. “Then he turned around and started yelling at me. Hey, like, I’m not going to let you just start yelling at me. Next thing I know, I’m kicked out.”
According to the operations manual for the 2020 season, “Fighting and instigating fights are strictly prohibited. Players must not make physical contact with others for any reason unless it occurs in normal and permissible game action. Violations of these rules will result in severe discipline consistent with past precedent, and discipline shall not be reduced or prorated based on the length of the season.”
“That’s one of those things in baseball where you don’t really think about what’s going on with mask-wearing in a pandemic when stuff like that is happening,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said. “You’re looking to get in there and protect your teammates the best you can, and try to minimize a situation that can get out of hand and do something that can keep going the rest of the season that we don’t want to have.”
Earlier this season, Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly was suspended eight games (which equates to 13.33% of the season) for throwing at the head of Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and then taunting shortstop Carlos Correa.
Melvin expects some suspensions given the violation of protocols Sunday.
“We understand,” he said. “You do the best you can with these things. Obviously, we don’t want to get into a brawl like that. We understand the protocol. Unfortunately, it happened. We all know. We’ve talked about it. Everybody knows what is at stake here.”