The Detroit Tigers stumble into Chicago as an apocalyptic vision of a sixth season of Robin Ventura. They’re 55-71 despite a name-brand roster, their why-hasn’t-he-been-fired-yet manager is on the hot seat, and now they’re fighting, and not just with other teams.
The Tigers and Yankees cleared benches three times on Thursday. The sequence of events:
Step 1: Michael Fulmer plunked Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez homered off Fulmer earlier in the game for his fourth of the series, and so this pitch in the fifth inning could have been born out of frustration. Neither party reacted as though the pitch was purposeful, and Fulmer denied intention after the game.
Step 2: Tommy Kahnle threw behind Miguel Cabrera.
Rick Renteria called Kahnle “Tommy Boy” during his time with the White Sox, and here’s an on-field manifestation of it. His heart overrode his brain, resulting in an ejection without a warning from home plate umpire Carlos Torres, who also tossed Joe Girardi when the Yankees manager protested that decision.
Joe Girardi calls out Brad Ausmus for saying f--k you to Yankees during fight. "I mean, come on Brad! What is that?" pic.twitter.com/uT8UGJVdXk— Josh Mansour (@joshmansour) August 24, 2017
That’s probably where the game went wrong, because instead of warning both benches after Kahnle didn’t hit a guy, it forced a pitching change, during which:
Step 3: Cabrera swung at Austin Romine.
The two were talking at home plate after Aroldis Chapman threw his last warm-up toss. Romine then removed his mask as if to say, “You want to start something?” and with a shove, Cabrera said, “Yes. Yes, I would.”
So along with Kahnle and Girardi, Cabrera and Romine were ejected from the proceedings.
Watch Sanchez (No. 24) enter the fray 10 seconds in. It’ll come into play later. Also, watch David Robertson sprint in, because just look at him.
Baseball players when there's a sale at the local Lululemon pic.twitter.com/MiCrMMszFK— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 24, 2017
No. 4: Dellin Betances beaned James McCann in the bottom of the seventh.
Just when it looked like scores were even, Betances unevened them with this pitch.
Betances nails McCann in the head. Benches clear yet agin pic.twitter.com/nJ8dCWkQaG— The Blue Ravine (@TheBlueRavine) August 24, 2017
I’m inclined to think this wasn’t intentional, because of the 0-1 count with the game tied at 6. It wasn’t intended as executed at the very least. That said, Jeff Passan noted that he’d thrown 1,396 fastballs to right-handed hitters in his career with only one HBP, which makes it easy to connect dots.
Betances was ejected because he beaned somebody with a 98 mph fastball after benches were warned, a reaction that neither Betances nor Rob Thomson (bench coach, now ejected) understood from their arguing. Even if Betances didn’t mean it, he should probably face a stiff suspension because it’s the worst-case scenario for retaliatory pitches.
In came Robertson, who might’ve been winded from his first trip to the mound. He plunked the first batter he faced but wasn’t ejected (that was an 0-2 count), and the Tigers were happier for it. Robertson walked JaCoby Jones, then gave up a bases-clearing double for a 9-6 Detroit lead.
Step 5: Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez argued in the dugout.
Go back to the brawl video and watch Sanchez. First, he dives into the pile and throws punches at Cabrera, who is already being held down by three different people, and then he fights off a teammate/coach restraining him to throw a sucker punch at Nick Castellanos at the most opportune moment.
This made Sanchez an unpopular figure among the Tigers, but Martinez didn’t get the memo, for he chatted with Sanchez during the second clearing of the benches. As play resumed, the Yankees’ broadcast caught Verlander — tonight’s starter — and Martinez in a heated exchange, with Nick Castellanos between them.
Verlander and Castellanos have every right to be upset with Martinez after he was all buddy buddy with Sanchez pic.twitter.com/EfgApFsBb7— MLB Roundup (@MLB_Roundup) August 24, 2017
Step 6: Alex Wilson plunked Todd Frazier on purpose.
This was on purpose because he admitted as such. He got the heave-ho, as did Ausmus, as the benches cleared again.
Perhaps because the Yankees were down two of their best relievers before they recorded one out in the seventh, the Tigers ended up winning the game, 10-6.
The White Sox have seen discontented veterans at the end of their ropes in their own ranks. Now they could get a chance to see them from a safe distance if they play their cards right. On the other hand, a Detroit sweep would knock them further down the draft standings and not allow a division rival to creep in on their rebuilding party. This is the one luxury of having nothing to play for.