BOSTON -- Christopher Austin absorbed a 97.7-mph fastball with his left elbow and slammed his bat violently on home plate, taking a few purposeful steps toward the mound. Joe Kelly removed the glove from his left hand and beckoned toward the batter, inviting this score to be settled in the center of Fenway Park.
Those actions cleared both benches and bullpens in the seventh inning of the Yankees' 10-7 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday evening, and will surely be scrutinized by Major League Baseball in the days to come. They also delivered an unmistakable pronouncement: The rivalry is back.
"I felt like that it was intentional and I didn't want to let anybody push myself around or do anything like that," Austin said. "That's why I went out there."
Austin and Kelly each threw punches in the ensuing fracas, prompting their ejections. Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin and reliever Tommy Kahnle were also tossed; Nevin said that he had been jawing at the Red Sox's dugout, while Kahnle said he was incensed after having been pushed by an umpire.
Kelly claimed the pitch had been an inside fastball that got away. He left the field with his uniform jersey torn and spots of blood on his neck, while Austin sported a bloody lip.
"I was ready to defend myself," said Kelly. "Someone comes in my property in my backyard? I have two dogs. Ready to come on my property and I'm being attacked, then I'm ready to defend myself."
Aaron Judge had sprinted to the center of the pile, where he attempted to play peacemaker, pulling Kelly off Austin.
"I saw Kelly was on top of Tyler after he tried to tackle him, so my job was just to get Kelly up and get him off," Judge said. "No one ever likes getting hit with 98 to the back. Everybody was pretty upset about it."
Cameras also captured Austin landing a punch on the head of Red Sox third-base coach Carlos Febles. Austin acknowledged that he had thrown punches.
"I'm just trying to defend myself, man. That's all that was," Austin said.
Tempers initially flared in the third inning, when Austin slid hard into second base on a Tyler Wade fielder's choice, his spikes connecting with Boston shortstop Brock Holt. Words were exchanged between Austin and Holt, which prompted the bullpens and benches to empty.
"I probably said something I shouldn't have to start the whole thing," Holt said. "I'm sorry for that. I just wanted him to know it was a bad slide. I think everyone on the field knows that it was."
Replays showed that Austin had his left foot pointing up as he slid into Holt's right foot, with third baseman Rafael Devers having fielded Wade's bunt swiftly. Holt said that his right calf was sliced by Austin's spikes, but Austin maintained that it was a fine play.
"I felt like my slide into second base was a clean slide," Austin said. "I play the game hard. I thought there was absolutely nothing wrong with that slide. I had no thought that they were going to throw at me."
That situation was diffused quickly. Richard Hembree struck out Austin in the fifth inning, and with the Yankees leading by four runs, Kelly opened their seventh-inning showdown with a slider that went for a swinging strike.
"You don't need to drill him for that [slide]," Giancarlo Stanton said, "and if you're going to do it, do it on the first pitch."
The next pitch was a high and inside fastball, and Austin said he considered that it had been a purpose pitch.
"After that pitch, it had crossed my mind, but I thought it was over after that," Austin said. "He missed with the first one. Once that happens, it's kind of over."
Kelly followed with a slider that missed the strike zone, and Austin was plunked by the 2-1 offering, discarding his batting helmet and tumbling toward Kelly onto the infield grass.
"The kid that charged the mound, he had his reasons," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "But if you take a look at the game, we're coming back and we're short on pitching. I don't know. You've just got to pay attention to the game and you judge by yourself."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he thought the Red Sox were in the wrong.
"I thought it was a hard slide into second, nothing remotely dirty about it," Boone said. "To take matters into your own hands and you go hit one of our guys for that, I thought was an overreaction. I didn't think it was right."
Though the rest of the game proceeded without incident, tension remained high even in the visiting clubhouse, where Austin was ushered to a pillar in the center of the room. A newspaper reporter and a cameraman nearly came to blows while jockeying for position, exchanging angry words.
"What's happening here?" Austin said, bewildered.
Media scuffles aside, Boone said that he believes the on-field incident is "probably over with," but Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez is not so certain about the lack of a carryover.
"You know that's coming," Vazquez said. "They feel like us. The clubhouse is our second home. It's wanting to protect our home, so it will be something soon. If not this series, maybe in New York."