Astros, Athletics clear benches as rivals’ tempers flare
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros apparently were tired of playing nice.
So following two quiet games at the Coliseum, true feelings seemed to come out and tempers flared Sunday, months after Houston’s sign-stealing scandal was brought to light by Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers.
Things got so angry the benches cleared - and the stands emptied, too, during Oakland’s 7-2 victory over the AL West rival Astros.
The Athletics’ ninth straight win was far overshadowed by what erupted in the seventh inning.
Oakland’s Ramon Laureano got hit by a pitch - for the third time in the three-game series - this one by Humberto Castellanos with one out in the seventh, and pointed at the pitcher.
Laureano then began exchanging words with animated Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron, left first base, threw down his batting helmet and began charging toward him in the first base dugout.
Astros catcher Dustin Garneau left the bench to tackle Laureano before the A’s outfielder reached Cintron, and a wild scene ensued.
“I was just trying to stop the situation before punches were really thrown and stuff got out of hand,” Garneau said. “That’s really what my whole goal was for that incident.”
Players rushed out of both dugouts to join the fray. Players who were sitting in the seats, observing COVID-19 social-distancing protocols, also rushed onto the field. Several Astros streamed out from their tunnel area.
Laureano was ejected by plate ump Ted Barrett, and the umpiring crew could easily be heard yelling at the players to “get back to the dugout!” through a ballpark with no fans.
“Ramon’s not going over there for no reason,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, adding of Cintron: “I think the league will know who that is and that person will get suspended. Hopefully that’s the case. Nowadays without fans in the stands and mikes everywhere my guess is they know who it is.”
Oakland batters were hit five times during the series, no Houston hitters were plunked.
A’s catcher Austin Allen was also ejected and Astros manager Dusty Baker was tossed a half-inning earlier for arguing balls and strikes. Houston lost its fifth in a row overall.
Oakland realized Laureano likely faces discipline.
“Look, we understand and you do the best you can with these things,” Melvin said. “Obviously we don’t want to get into a brawl like that and we understand the protocol. Unfortunately, it happened.”
Baker said he didn’t see what happened because, having been ejected, he couldn’t get the game feed on his clubhouse TV.
When asked whether Cintron had crossed the line with his behavior, Baker reserved judgment.
“Who chirped first? Did Alex say something to him first or did Laureano say something?” Baker asked. “I don’t know what happened. I’ve chirped at players before myself. Guys always say, well, is it inappropriate for a coach to chirp at a guy, but are you supposed to just sit there and take it?”
“It’s in the heat in the moment, we’re all men out there, with high pride and anxiety and everything else. These things happen when you’re on the baseball field,” he said.
Ex-Astros player Fiers didn’t pitch this series. He went public to The Athletic in November about Houston’s detailed sign-stealing scam. The Astros have won the past three division crowns, a World Series in 2017 and AL pennant last year. The A’s won 97 each in 2018 and ’19 only to lose the AL wild-card game.
Matt Olson hit a three-run homer in the third and Matt Chapman connected the very next pitch, taking the score from 1-0 to 5-0 on consecutive offerings from Astros starter Cristian Javier (1-1).
Robbie Grossman also homered and Mark Canha contributed an RBI single.
The A’s (12-4) matched the 2013 club for the best record after 16 games over the last 30 years.
A’s rookie left-hander Jesus Luzardo (1-0) earned his first major league win in his second career start. His day was done after allowing back-to-back two-out walks in the sixth.
The 22-year-old Luzardo outdid 23-year-old Javier in a matchup of two top pitching prospects.
Astros: CF George Springer resumed hitting work in the batting cage but was still listed as day to day by Baker. The outfielder missed his third straight game after suffering a sprained right wrist diving for a ball during Thursday’s loss at Arizona.
Athletics: RHP Jordan Weems, on the injured list with a lat strain, will throw to hitters soon at the club’s San Jose alternate site. “I know everything’s progressing well,” Melvin said. ... LHP A.J. Puk (strained throwing shoulder) is playing catch out to about 90 feet but Melvin said, “It’s going to be a while before he gets on a mound.”
LHP Sean Manaea (0-2, 8.03 ERA) tries again for his first victory of 2020 when the A’s open a three-game road series vs. the Angels. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1, 9.22) pitches as the Astros return home to face the San Francisco Giants.