Red Sox

Eight ejected from nasty Yankees-Tigers game

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Eight ejected from nasty Yankees-Tigers game

DETROIT -- Once slugger Miguel Cabrera wrestled Yankees catcher Austin Romine to the ground at home plate, an afternoon game at Comerica Park collapsed into total chaos.

All the testiness that had been building between the Detroit Tigers and New York finally boiled over. The toll of Thursday's fury - three bench-clearing altercations, eight ejections, one beaning and a lot of angry words.

"I'm sure there are going to be suspensions on both sides," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after a 10-6 loss.

The winning and losing pitchers - Detroit's Alex Wilson (2-4) and New York's Dellin Betances (3-5) - were among those tossed. So were Girardi and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

At one point, the ill will carried over to the Detroit dugout, where star pitcher Justin Verlander and teammate Victor Martinez appeared to get into some sort of dispute.

"I was actually on the field, so I haven't seen it and haven't talked to them about it," Ausmus said. "I'm aware of it, but I couldn't tell you what it was about."

Perhaps the only positive thing: This was the final time the Yankees and Tigers were scheduled to play this season.

James McCann and Justin Upton homered for Detroit, and Gary Sanchez went deep for the Yankees, but that all became secondary on a day when the umpires had their hands full trying to maintain order. Major League Baseball now figures to be busy, too, sorting out likely penalties that could especially hurt the playoff-contending Yankees.

Girardi contended an early warning would've cut off the trouble before it escalated. He blamed the umps for letting things go wild, saying, "Just a very poor job on their part."

Much later, Betances was ejected after he hit McCann in the helmet. Betances seemed to be indicating he had thrown a breaking ball instead of a fastball, and wound up shouting at the Tigers and the umps.

"I threw him out and that was to keep control of the game," umpire crew chief Dana DeMuth said. "And the reason why it took a minute or so, was because I wanted to get the players apart. Once I got Detroit going to their dugout and New York going to their dugout, then I informed him that he was ran."

"It wasn't necessarily of him intentionally beaning the batter, but to keep control of the situation, I deemed it necessary that he went," he said.

Although Cabrera vs. Romine was the peak of the hostilities, McCann's beaning was the most frightening.

"You don't want to see people hit in the head. You don't want to see fighting on the field," Cabrera said. "But people have to understand we're human."

The problems between these teams began well before Tommy Kahnle threw behind Cabrera in the sixth inning. Last month, they had a game at Yankee Stadium in which four batters were hit.

This time, Michael Fulmer hit Sanchez with a pitch in the fifth, an inning after Sanchez had homered for the fourth time in this three-game series.

"If you can't see that Fulmer clearly hit Sanchez on purpose, there's something wrong," Girardi said.

Fulmer looked like he might be hurt after throwing that pitch, and he was checked by the trainer before staying in the game. He said he had no intention of hitting Sanchez.

"I respect Gary Sanchez, I really do," said Fulmer, who beat out Sanchez for last year's American League Rookie of the Year award. "I would never throw at anybody that hit a homer off of me, just because they hit a home run."

Kahnle was ejected after his pitch behind Cabrera, and Girardi was tossed after he came out to argue.

"When they throw at me, it was OK. ... I was cool with that," Cabrera said. "When they started arguing with the umpire, I said to Romine, `Calm down.'"

The game was finally about to resume when Cabrera stepped toward Romine, and the New York catcher took off his mask. Cabrera gave him a two-handed push to the chest.

"He said, `You have a problem with me?' And I said, `This isn't about you,'" said Romine, whose brother Andrew plays for the Tigers. "And then he pushed me. It felt like he wanted a confrontation there and I just tried to defend myself the best I could."

Cabrera appeared to take a couple of swings at Romine, and the two ended up on the ground as players from both teams spilled onto the field. Sanchez later appeared to take a swing at someone at the bottom of the pile.

Cabrera and Romine were ejected, and Romine was so incensed by his dismissal that he threw his mask when he entered the dugout.

An inning later, Betances hit McCann in the helmet with a pitch, causing benches to empty again, and Betances and bench coach Rob Thompson were tossed. Betances said he didn't hit McCann on purpose, and McCann seemed to agree afterward.

"I don't think it was intentional," McCann said. "At that point in the game, Miggy was thrown at, Sanchez had been hit, and at least in my mind, the retaliation was over. I don't think that he was trying to hit me on purpose."

Wilson and Ausmus were ejected in the eighth after Wilson hit Todd Frazier around the thigh with a pitch. The benches cleared for a third time.

"With me hitting a guy in the leg, it's what I have to do and that's what I did," Wilson said. "Fortunately for me I know where my pitches are going, and I hit a guy in the leg today to take care of my teammates and protect them."

With hellacious slider, Chris Sale is actually getting better

With hellacious slider, Chris Sale is actually getting better

Chris Sale is on more than just a good run. The best pitcher in the American League has actually gotten better.

Sale’s ability to light up the radar gun has been noticeable. He hit triple digits once again in the All-Star Game — now a regular occurrence, although he maxed out at just 99 mph on Sunday. After his third straight Midsummer Classic start, Sale attributed the recent boost in velocity to multiple things, including the Red Sox strength and conditioning staff. As pitching coach Dana LeVangie has said at different points, Sale came into this year with a plan, and is executing it wonderfully.

What stands out beyond the velocity is the slider.

Per Statcast, 46 of the 99 pitches Sale threw on Sunday vs. the Tigers were sliders. He’s using his breaking ball more this year than he ever has in his career as a starter, for good reason. 

The big jump in usage came from 2016 to 2017. But in movement? This season has been tremendous. He’s getting about eight inches of movement on the pitch, up from about 5 inches in 2016 and 5 1/2 inches in 2017, per BrooksBaseball.net's measurements:

That was heading into Sunday. Peek at the Statcast numbers over at BaseballSavant.com, and what do you find: more and more spin on the slider as the years have gone on.

The slider in 2015: an average of 2,206 RPM. The next year, 2,251. In 2017, it was 2,395. This year, 2,478.

In the seven-start stretch leading into Sunday’s start, the number was 2,525. 

How? The Red Sox think part of it has to do with how square Sale’s hand is at the point of release. A better spin axis means more of the spin can translate to movement. Pitchers very often don't maximize their spin.

Sale's vertical release point is also lower overall in 2018: not to a huge degree, but as low it’s been basically since 2013. There's a belief  that finishing his delivery lower, towards his knee rather than his hip, may be helping the extra movement.

At the end of the day, Sale is a phenomenal athlete who thrives on rest that the Sox are fostering and an intense routine. He was already awesome, and with some help from the Red Sox coaches and staff, he’s only making himself better as he marches toward his first Cy Young award.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

The Baseball Show Podcast: Will the Red Sox make a trade before the deadline?

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The Baseball Show Podcast: Will the Red Sox make a trade before the deadline?

0:23 - Lou Merloni and Evan Drellich discuss Chris Sale's continued dominance as he shuts down the Tigers on Sunday afternoon. Sale now has an incredible 0.27 ERA in his last 5 starts.

4:24 - Will the Red Sox make a trade prior to the deadline? Do they have enough ammo to bring in an impact player? Merloni and Drellich talk about what positions the Red Sox should look to upgrade before July 31st.

9:05 - David Price started off the unofficial 2nd half of the season with 6.1 innings of shutout ball. Is he someone the Red Sox can rely on going forward? Lou and Evan break down what they expect to see from Price.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE