Benches clear in heated Texas showdown
Tensions spill over after Odor, Conger exchange words at home
HOUSTON -- Words were shouted, shoves were exchanged, benches emptied and tempers flared. And the rivalry between the Astros and Rangers is alive and well.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Rangers manager Jeff Banister had to be separated following a benches-clearing incident in the top of the ninth inning of the Rangers' 7-6 win Saturday night at Minute Maid Park in which emotions nearly boiled into a brawl.
The incident began at home plate, when Astros catcher Hank Conger thought Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor was taking too long to get into the box. Conger motioned Odor into the box before words were exchanged. Soon, players and coaches from both dugouts and bullpens were pushing, pulling and yelling at each other until order was restored.
"These guys want to play ball," Banister said. "They play with energy and passion. They are not going to be pushed around. I think we woke some guys up. I like where we are at."
The altercation ignited both teams, with the Rangers scoring twice in the top of the ninth to take a 7-4 lead before Conger belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to cap the scoring. Conger wouldn't say specifically what was said between he and Odor.
"We just had some words exchanged," he said. "At that point, it got carried out of hand a little bit. Emotions run high, especially when you play rival teams. That's about it. Whatever was exchanged between me and him was between me and him, but I wasn't too pleased about him taking his time getting in the box and having [pitcher Josh] Fields wait there."
Odor also wouldn't comment on the specifics:
"I'm trying to help my team win and play hard," he said. "My team, we are a family. We play together. That's it."
After Conger motioned repeatedly for Odor to get into the box, Odor appeared to say something to the catcher. Conger rose to his feet and confronted Odor as home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo played peacemaker.
Rangers slugger Prince Fielder, who was on deck, tried to pull Conger away from the situation, but soon both managers were in each other's faces as their players gathered around. Fielder appeared to shove Hinch at one point.
"Everybody was shoved," Hinch said. "I think the whole pile moved a couple of different times. It's a lot of defending your own turf, defending your own people. There was high-end emotion. People want to win this game, we want to compete a little bit. There's a lot of yelling, a lot of pushing, a lot of… until order is restored and then you play."
Hinch indicated he had no ill will toward Banister.
"We're good," he said. "It's an intense game. Again, it's baseball. Once you get past the All-Star break and get into July -- we've played these guys a number of times now -- it's fun. You try to compete and you defend your turf. Obviously, it escalated further than it did and both teams fought back. They came back and scored a couple of runs in the ninth and felt like they put a stamp on it and our guys came back and responded with a couple of runs. That's pretty good effort on both sides."
Banister wasn't sure what happened at first.
"I was writing down some notes and our players and their players were having a spirited discussion," he said. "You try not to lose any players. I'm not sure what went on and right now I don't care. We'll wake up tomorrow and be ready to play another game."
Like Hinch, Banister did not have any issues with his counterpart in the other dugout.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're good," Banister said.
Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus said his team will always have each other's backs.
"Down the stretch, we might see some more of that," he said. "That's the way the game is and we've had a good run and some teams are hungry and after us. They're trying to find ways to beat us and get us out of our game. Hopefully, that won't get us off our games and propels us to some things going our way."