Joe Kelly Fight Club is back (kind of).
Boston Red Sox fans remember the hard-throwing reliever taking on Tyler Austin during a brawl with the rival New York Yankees in 2018. While melees aren't kosher in the era of social distancing, Kelly still found a way to stir the pot in the Los Angeles Dodgers' series opener against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
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First, Kelly fired a 3-0 fastball above Astros third baseman Alex Bregman's head.
3-0 pitch from Joe Kelly ends up going behind Alex Bregman. pic.twitter.com/q6P8CD5oqj— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 29, 2020
Later in the inning, the Dodgers reliever nearly plunked Astros shortstop Carlos Correa.
Carlos Correa has to duck out of the way from an inside breaking ball from Joe Kelly. pic.twitter.com/NabNOVB0Q6— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 29, 2020
Kelly then struck out Correa to end the inning -- and that's when the fun started.
The Dodgers and Astros cleared the benches after Joe Kelly struck out and exchanged words with Carlos Correa. pic.twitter.com/Z2l2A1sMG6— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 29, 2020
Cameras caught Kelly jawing at Correa and actually making faces at the Astros star as he walked off the mound. Correa obviously didn't take kindly to Kelly's mockery, and both benches cleared in support of their teammates.
If what Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters after the game is true, we can see why Correa was upset.
Dusty Baker on #Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly: "What really enraged everybody was what he told Carlos [Correa] when he struck him out, "Nice swing bitch!''— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 29, 2020
Here's Kelly's side of the story, via the Orange County Register:
“It’s one of those things that I pitch competitively. And with no fans here it’s easy to hear some stuff. Something apparently they didn’t take too kind to. I mean, my accuracy isn’t the best."
Red Sox fans can attest to that last part: The 32-year-old had plenty of erratic outings during his five-year tenure in Boston.
Kelly has never backed down from a confrontation, though, and gladly sent a message to the Astros after their elaborate sign-stealing operation during the 2017 season came to light this offseason. The Dodgers lost to Houston in the World Series that year, and several Los Angeles players called out the Astros this winter for their shady tactics.
Kelly wasn't on that 2017 Dodgers squad, of course. But as we mentioned, he's not one to shy away from the action.