A testy start to the 2015 season resulted in a bench-clearing brawl between the White Sox and Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.
Both benches emptied at the end of the seventh inning after Yordano Ventura fielded Adam Eaton’s comebacker, took several steps off the mound, stared at the White Sox leadoff hitter and shouted an obscenity at him before he threw to first for the out.
Eaton then quickly turned to confront the pitcher, sparking the chaos. Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Lorenzo Cain were ejected for Kansas City, but it didn’t stop the Royals from winning 3-2 in 13 innings. White Sox starting pitchers Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija got tossed as well.
“I think everyone knows,” Sale said. “I’m not going to sit here and put my foot in my mouth or spill the beans. The proof is in what you guys saw and that was about it.
“Yeah, we’re competitive, we’re athletes, we’re guys. You put us in the heat of the moment and we do some crazy things sometimes. That’s about it.
“It was a big mess.”
The drama started long before Thursday and was rooted in a season-opening series in which six batters were hit and Royals starter Danny Duffy threw behind the head of White Sox slugger Adam LaRoche.
Both Ventura and Sale each hit a batter Thursday to reignite those tensions. Ventura hit Jose Abreu in the elbow to start the fourth inning and Sale drilled Mike Moustakas in the shoulder in the fifth with a 0-2 changeup. Before the pitch even reached the plate, Sale reacted as if he lost control of the pitch and was upset with himself. After the game, Royals manager Ned Yost said he was surprised when umpires warned both benches after Sale hit Moustakas because he didn’t believe there was intent.
“There’s been some heated games to open the season,” catcher Tyler Flowers said.
But none could match the intensity of Thursday’s affair and Eaton said the incident kept him warm for the rest of a contest in which the wind chill was at 32 degrees by the late innings.
With two outs in the seventh and an 0-1 count, Ventura appeared to quick pitch Eaton, who may have said something -- though it’s hard to tell from television replays. Eaton, who made a one-minute statement afterward in which he said he respects the Royals and believes the incident is over, said he didn’t say anything until after he neared first base.
“When he came at me with the two-step that he did, and then he said something, I was a little thrown back by it,” Eaton said. “And then I had some words for him.
“(The quick pitch) is part of the game. I wouldn't say I was irritated by it. I put a pretty good swing on the ball and if it gets past him it's probably a hit. He made a great play and when make a great play sometimes you get a little excited and that's kind of what happened.”
Ventura, who also hit Brett Lawrie during a series of incidents with the Oakland A’s last weekend, was quickly ushered away from the crowd and into foul territory by teammates. Cain, who has already been hit four times, including twice by the White Sox, was in the middle of the brouhaha as was Samardzija, who appeared to twice pursue Kansas City players. In one instance, Samardzija -- who hit Cain on Opening Day after he surrendered homer to Moustakas -- charged into a crowd of players, resulting in him running over Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele. Samardzija, who was not available for comment after the game, appeared to attempt to fight Cain, who also had to be restrained several times.
Sale, who was done after 99 pitches anyway, didn’t know he had been ejected until close to an inning later. During the scrum, he was face to face with Yost in a heated discussion. Somewhere in the middle was Volquez, who threw several punches in the direction of Flowers that didn’t appear to land.
“When anybody starts staring everybody reacts to it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think for us, once you get out there, when somebody starts saying something, guys are emotional. I couldn’t even tell you what happened. There was people everywhere.”