The hostilities that developed between the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals on Friday night spilled over into Saturday’s rematch.
After serving up a two-run home run to Oakland’s Josh Reddick, which capped an A’s five-run fourth-inning rally, Kansas City right-hander Yordano Ventura drilled Brett Lawrie with a 99 mph fastball in apparent retaliation for Friday’s aggressive slide that left Alcides Escobar injured.
As a result of the beaning, Ventura was immediately ejected by home plate umpire Jim Joyce. It was actually very similar to a scenario that played out in Boston on Friday, when Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected for hitting Pablo Sandoval after an aggressive slide. There were no warnings beforehand in either game and both pitchers were ejected on the spot.
The judgment was debatable in Jimenez’s case, however, because Jimenez’s command is always iffy. At the time, the game was close and Jimenez was throwing a no-hitter, so he had more to lose than gain. In Ventura’s situation, the umpire’s reaction seemed appropriate under the circumstances. The A’s had just taken a five-run lead, Ventura had a clear motive, and many were already anticipating the event would take place at some point in the evening.
With that in mind, Ventura might be looking at a suspension on top of the ejection, assuming MLB agrees with its umpires.
In the immediate aftermath, both benches and bullpens slowly cleared. Some words were exchanged, but the situation never appeared close to escalating beyond that. In that regard, the umpires, Joyce in particular, did a fine job reading the situation, allowing what needed to be said get said among the players, and then moving on with the game.
Rewinding to Friday, though some form of retaliation was anticipated, it appeared that cooler heads had prevailed following the game. In fact, Royals’ manager Ned Yost mentioned that the awkwardness of Friday’s controversial play put Lawrie in a difficult position and gave him little time to react. The reaction, unfortunately, was a late but aggressive slide that caught Escobar on the knee.
Escobar’s status remains day-to-day.
For his part, Lawrie attempted to explain to the media that he was simply playing the game, with no intentions to injure Escobar. He echoed those sentiments in a series of Twitter posts last Friday, and reportedly attempted to reach out to Escobar himself, but those same reports say Lawrie’s messages were sent to the wrong phone number.
Here’s the message Lawrie says he’s sent to Escobar.
It’s a bizarre twist to an apparently still simmering situation. Had the messages reached their intended target, it probably doesn’t change what happened Saturday, but it might have given the situation a better sense of closure despite the retaliation.
That might still be the case. Time will certainly tell on that front, but this developing rivalry between small market teams attempting to sustain postseason success will be most interesting to watch.
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