The Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros engaged in a bench-clearing brawl Sunday that defied MLB’s coronavirus protocols and will likely lead to multiple suspensions.
A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano charged the Houston dugout after being hit by a pitch in the back for the second time during his team’s 7-2 win, in the bottom of the seventh inning by Humberto Castellanos. He was hit earlier in the game by Astros pitcher Brandon Bailey.
Laureano first barked at Castellanos before engaging in an apparent screaming match with the Astros dugout.
A member of the away Astros dugout, believed to be a coach, then waved for Laureano to come toward the dugout, and the 26-year-old obliged.
“Ramon doesn’t go over there unless something completely offensive came out of that dugout … That person should get suspended,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told reporters.
Laureano charges the Astros dugout and the brawl breaks out pic.twitter.com/CQ2K8kFnlb
— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) August 9, 2020
Laureano was quickly wrestled to the ground by backup catcher Dustin Garneau and tensions soared for a few minutes. Laureano and several others weren’t wearing masks, however, MLB does not require players on the field to wear face-coverings aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“I was just trying to stop the situation before punches were really thrown and things got out of hand,” said Garneau, who called Laureano a “good dude.” The two previously played together within the A’s organization.
Laureano was ejected, while Castellanos was later taken out of the game.
“(Laureano) got hit by two guys who don’t have any time in the big leagues,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said in defending his pitchers. “[Castellanos] wasn’t trying to hit him.”
MLB, as part of its coronavirus protocols that were recently heightened in response to the Marlins and Cardinals’ outbreaks, prohibits teams from engaging in bench-clearing brawls.
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.
That confrontation was short-lived and did not include punches being thrown, as was the case Sunday.
Even so, Kelly was suspended eight games, the equivalent of 22 games during a 162-game season, while Baker and Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts were suspended one game each.
Athletics pitcher and former Astros hurler Mike Fiers in the fall served as the whistleblower in the Astros’ cheating scandal, which involved stealing signs electronically during Houston’s 2017 championship season and parts of 2018.
Fiers was not scheduled to pitch in this series, and he has largely avoided questions about the fallout of the scandal, which resulted in MLB suspending Astros manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Lunhow for one year each. Both were subsequently fired by the organization. Alex Cora, a Houston bench coach in 2017, was fired by the Red Sox for his involvement in the scheme, while the Mets fired Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game, due to his involvement as a player.
The A’s (12-4) are first in the AL West while the Astros (6-9) are in third.