Tempers Flare As Baseball’s Division Rivalries Turn Hostile

By NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer

The Orioles and Red Sox play each other again in early June, as do the Astros and Rangers.

Perhaps by then, cooler heads can prevail. If not, the umpires in those series will have their work cut out for them.

Tempers flared in Boston and Houston this week, with divisional rivalries descending into open hostility. Manny Machado of the Orioles lashed out at the entire Boston organization after he was again nearly hit by a pitch, and the benches cleared in the series opener between Houston and Texas.

With so many games still to come between these teams, there’s no telling how long the tension might simmer.

Machado spiked Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia with a slide back on April 21, and a couple days later, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes threw a fastball behind Machado’s head. In the opener of a four-game series at Fenway Park on Monday, Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy hit Mookie Betts near the hip with a pitch.

On Tuesday , Chris Sale threw a pitch behind Machado’s legs. Machado later went on an expletive-filled tirade, saying he’d lost respect for the Red Sox.

Meanwhile, the in-state matchup between Houston and Texas boiled over Monday when Lance McCullers Jr. of the Rangers threw behind Mike Napoli. Players from both benches came on the field, and there was some pushing and shoving. Andrew Cashner had hit Houston’s Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel earlier in the game.

It’s never clear how long the bad blood might last in situations like these. Sometimes, players are able to move on, content that no more retaliation is warranted, but any more flare-ups could escalate things again.

Here are a few other feuds from recent years that remained testy for at least a little while:

BLUE JAYS-RANGERS (2015-16)

Jose Bautista punctuated his dramatic home run in the 2015 AL Division Series with a bat flip that was more of a one-handed heave. Toronto won that series against Texas, and the following May, Matt Bush of the Rangers hit Bautista with a pitch.

Moments later, on a grounder to the left side, Bautista slid hard into second base as the Rangers tried to turn a double play. When he popped up, Texas infielder Rougned Odor pushed him. Then Odor connected with a right-handed punch squarely to Bautista’s jaw, touching off quite a donnybrook .

ROYALS-ATHLETICS (2015)

Kansas City was involved in a number of brouhahas early in its championship season of 2015. Reliever Kelvin Herrera threw behind Oakland batter Brett Lawrie, who had knocked Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar out of a game earlier in that series with a hard slide .

METS-PHILLIES (2015)

The Mets swept a four-game series in Philadelphia in late August, and the Phillies became upset with the visitors for quick pitching. There was a lot of yelling but no violence after Hansel Robles threw a pitch before Philadelphia batter Darin Ruf was ready.

About a month later, the playoff-bound Mets were back in Philadelphia when slugger Yoenis Cespedes was hit by a pitch. Robles was later ejected after throwing a pitch around Cameron Rupp’s head. The benches began to empty then before order was restored.

BREWERS-BRAVES (2013)

Carlos Gomez was hit in the leg by one of Paul Maholm’s pitches in a June game against Atlanta. When the teams played in September, Gomez homered off Maholm, dropped his bat emphatically and took his sweet time before beginning a trot around the bases that he was never able to finish. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman jawed with him, and by the time Gomez approached home, catcher Brian McCann was standing in the way, blocking his path to the plate. That cleared the benches .

DIAMONDBACKS-DODGERS (2013)

The benches emptied on multiple occasions during a June matchup between these NL West rivals that resulted in eight suspensions. The real fracas began after Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke came to the plate and was hit by Ian Kennedy’s pitch. Los Angeles got the last laugh, clinching the division at Arizona that year and celebrating in the swimming pool at Chase Field.
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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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