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Major League Baseball’s restart following a lengthy delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a rocky one, as evidenced by an incident during the final game of a series between the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
Both teams engaged in a bench-clearing brawl with one out in the seventh inning after the A’s Ramon Laureano was struck by a pitch from hurler Humberto Castellanos and then charged at his American League West rivals.
The incident is likely to lead to major fines and it’s possible Laureano’s season is over.
Ramon Laureano is about to be suspended for the rest of the #MLB season…
BRAWL IN OAKLAND 😳pic.twitter.com/m29tz2Bbp9
— Pickswise (@Pickswise) August 9, 2020
After being struck, Laureano started exchanging words with Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron after he trotted to first base.
Shortly thereafter, Laureano threw down his batting helmet and started running toward Cintron, who was egging him on.
Laureano was tackled by Astros catcher Dustin Garneau before the outfielder reached Cintron, however. And at that, players from both dugouts flooded onto the field.
Laureano was immediately ejected by plate umpire Ted Barrett, and in a fan-less stadium, umpires could be heard ordering players to “get back to the dugout!”
Due to ongoing COVID-19 guidelines and rules, players are prohibited from fighting on the field.
Garneau, who has been teammates with Laureano in the past, called him a “good dude” while adding he felt like he had no choice but to intervene.
“The guy charged at our dugout and I didn’t know what else to do,” the backup catcher said, according to Fox News.
“I was just trying to stop the situation before punches were really thrown and things got out of hand,” he added, the New York Post noted further.
Following his team’s 7-2 victory, A’s manager Bob Melvin attempted to justify his outfielder’s actions in a post-game interview with reporters.
“Ramon doesn’t go over there unless something completely offensive came out of that dugout … That person should get suspended,” Melvin said.
Bob Melvin: "Ramon doesn’t go over there unless something completely offensive came out of that dugout … That person should get suspended." #Athletics
— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) August 9, 2020
There’s a history between the two AL West rivals. A’s pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic in November that the Astros employ a sophisticated system to steal signs used to guide players on the field from opposing teams.
“Fiers, who was a part of the Astros’ 2017 World Series-winning team, said the scheme was not the right way to play the game. On Monday, MLB handed down a year-long suspension for A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow and are mulling severe punishment for Alex Cora,” Fox News reported separately in January.
Meanwhile, Astros manager Dusty Baker defended his pitchers after Laureano was struck for the third time during the series.
“He got hit by two guys who don’t have any time in the big leagues,” Baker said. “[Castellanos] wasn’t trying to hit him.”
The Post added: “The Astros earlier this season were involved in a bench-clearing incident after two of their players were thrown at by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly, in what many believed was payback for the Houston cheating scandal that was uncovered in the fall.”
The confrontation did not last long and there were no punches thrown, but Kelly was suspended for eight games during the truncated 60-game season, while Baker and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts each received a one-game suspension.
The Astros are struggling this year. At 6-9, they are third in the division, several games behind the first-place Athletics (12-4).
That said, viewership has been off since the league restarted late last month. That could be due, in part, to the adoption of Black Lives Matter messaging, which included players taking a knee before the playing of the National Anthem to kick off the season.
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