ANAHEIM -- Tensions reached an ugly tipping point during the Mariners-Angels matinee on Sunday when both benches and bullpens cleared, punches were thrown from players and coaches on each team and multiple ejections ensued after Jesse Winker took a 91.1 mph fastball from Andrew Wantz off his right hip in the top of the second inning.
The fracas spilled over in front of the Angels’ dugout on the third-base line and lasted more than six minutes, subsided, then resumed in fair territory between the mound and third base, halting play for approximately 17 minutes in an eventual 2-1 Angels win at Angel Stadium.
Warnings had already been issued in the first when Wantz threw a 92.9 mph fastball behind star rookie Julio Rodríguez, but tempers had been boiling the night prior, when Mike Trout dodged an up-and-in, 95 mph fastball from Mariners reliever Erik Swanson.
After being hit on Sunday, Winker held his left hand up, exchanged words with Wantz and took a few steps toward first base alongside home-plate umpire John Bacon and Angels catcher Max Stassi, but he then ran toward the Halos’ dugout.
Bacon and then third-base umpire Adrian Johnson attempted to restrain the left fielder, but he wrestled out of the hold and charged toward Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon, and both threw their hands at each other's faces. And by that point, the majority of players from both teams were in the thick of the scrum.
“It didn't really matter what was said,” Winker said. “They threw a ball over Julio's head, and I wasn't really trying to talk to anybody."
After the brawl had mostly subsided, more words were exchanged and the scrum of both teams continued pushing and shoving into fair territory, with multiple players being dragged to the ground.
Vocal arguments then continued from afar as Bacon and his staff sorted out ejections. And after both teams were fully separated, Winker gestured toward the Angels’ fans while walking behind home plate and heading toward Seattle’s dugout.
The following players and staff were ejected:
• Mariners: Scott Servais, Jesse Winker, Julio Rodríguez, J.P. Crawford
• Angels: Phil Nevin, Raisel Iglesias, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Wantz
Upon being told of his ejection, Iglesias expressed his frustration by throwing a container of sunflower seeds onto the field.
“I don't have [any issues] with Winker,” Iglesias said through interpreter Manny Del Campo. “I didn't say anything to him. I don’t know why they ejected me, because I didn't throw a punch, I didn't do anything. So that's why I was upset.”
Wantz was announced as the Angels’ opener when their clubhouse opened on Sunday morning, a change made by Angels manager Phil Nevin to instead have José Suarez, the original starter, follow Wantz. Suarez was then installed after Wantz was ejected.
Both fastballs from Wantz -- the one behind Rodríguez and the one that hit Winker -- were on the first pitch of each at-bat.
Swanson said after Saturday’s game, a 5-3 Mariners win, that his high-and-in pitch to Trout was one that got away when he was attempting to jam the Angels’ superstar at his weakest part of the strike zone. But Trout was noticeably frustrated at the offering, saying, “If you can’t pitch inside, don’t pitch inside. If you’re going to hit me, hit me in the ribs, don’t hit me in the head. I don’t know if that was the intent, but anything at the head, you don’t do that.”
Johnson, the crew chief, explained why warnings weren’t issued pregame: "I’m not aware of the incident with Trout from last night. You’re talking about the pitch that went over his head. That was nothing for us to issue warnings today. What happened today was a guy got hit. We had warnings in. Eight guys were ejected."
Nevin downplayed the situation, both Saturday night and again Sunday morning. Then, after the series finale, he elaborated on the strain that had been brewing.
“I mean, you play eight games in a matter of a week against the same team, things like this happen,” Nevin said. “Tensions just [grow]. That's baseball sometimes. Unfortunately, there's some ugly incidents once in a while, and I think that's just what happened today.”
Wantz, who is in his third stint with the big league team this season, denied that either of his first-pitch fastballs had intent.
“I was pretty amped up for my first start, and the first one kind of just got away from me,” Wantz said. “I was sweaty. It's the first day game I've pitched in. That's that. The second one to Winker was a cut fastball inside and just yanked it. That's all I’ve got to say.”
The umpiring crew reported the incident to Major League Baseball, and it’s likely both teams will see suspensions and fines handed out in the next few days after the league has had the chance to review the specifics.
These division rivals hadn’t met for the first time until last weekend in Seattle, more than two months into the schedule, due to the delayed start caused by the lockout. And through eight games in the past 11 days, there have been seven HBP instances, including Winker.
The most notable HBP before Sunday occurred when Mariners outfielder Justin Upton -- who played five seasons in Anaheim before being released in April -- took a 90.6 mph fastball off his helmet from Michael Lorenzen on June 17. Upton exited that game but returned the next day as a DH, and Servais said after the game and the following day that he didn’t think it was intentional. Lorenzen, who was upset after the incident, said after that the new, slicker grip on the baseballs this year was the cause.
Earlier in that game, Robbie Ray hit Luis Rengifo with a 93.9 mph fastball, up, in and on his hands, and that was the first HBP from either team against each other this season.
“Like I said, eight games in a matter of, what, 10 days against the same team or however many it was, these things happen,” Nevin said. “You see it happen in the Minor Leagues a lot, they’re playing these six-game series now, and when you get somebody for that long and I mean, we have several more with them this year, I just think that kind of plays a big part of this.”
Nonetheless, the Mariners said they didn’t think there was lingering tension coming into Sunday.
“I don't think so. I think the tension was on their side,” Mariners starter Marco Gonzales said. “We didn’t feel like there was anything that should’ve carried over. We were trying to win a game last night in the ninth inning.”
Suspensions are likely looming for both sides in the coming days. For Seattle, it’s possible that they’ll be without Winker, Crawford and Rodríguez, who are perhaps their most critical offensive contributors now that Ty France is on the 10-day IL.
These teams face each other another 11 times this year, but not until the first weekend of August, which features a Saturday doubleheader to make up for games that were postponed due to the lockout.
But will the tensions linger on for the next six weeks until then?
"Honestly, we'll see,” Crawford said. “I don't know. We'll see."