A wild Wednesday around Major League Baseball culminated with a pair of bench-clearing altercations during the New York Yankees’ 10-7 win against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The second one was the big one, as punches were thrown once the Yankees’ Tyler Austin charged the mound after being drilled by a 98 mph fastball by Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly.
The tension began during the third inning, when Boston shortstop Brock Holt took exception to Austin making an aggressive slide on a force play at second base. Austin clearly had his left foot elevated as he slid into second base, which caused him to spike the back of Holt’s leg.
It’s understandable that Holt wouldn’t be pleased about getting hit, but sometimes those plays happen when everyone is playing hard. Austin was hustling to beat the throw from third baseman Rafael Devers, who fielded a bunt and threw to Holt in time for the out.
Austin insisted his slide was clean after the game.
“I felt like my slide into second base was a clean slide. I play the game hard. I thought there was nothing wrong with that slide. I had no thought that they were going to throw at me.” – Tyler Austin
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 12, 2018
The Red Sox obviously didn’t agree. However, cooler heads prevailed following the first incident. That wouldn’t be the case in the seventh inning, when Kelly drilled Austin with the fourth pitch of their battle.
Like Austin, Kelly denied there was any intent behind his pitch.
Joe Kelly: “It was a pitch that got away on a cold night. … I walk a batter per inning. It’s not like I have Greg Maddux command.”
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) April 12, 2018
After being hit, Austin slammed down his bat and ran at Kelly, who stood his ground. Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez slowed Austin’s momentum just enough for Kelly to avoid the charge. Kelly then fired off some clear punches once Austin was down. It looks like Austin was unable to fire back directly at Kelly. However, video does show him landing a hard punch on Red Sox coach Carlos Febles.
Both Austin and Kelly were ejected from the ballgame for their actions. Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle and third base coach Phil Nevin were also ejected.
Major League Baseball will have a lot of video to review when the office opens on Thursday morning. Earlier on Wednesday, Colorado Rockies All-Star Nolan Arenado charged the mound after being thrown at by San Diego’s Luis Perdomo. Punches were thrown and five were ejected during that altercation.
Expect several suspensions and fines to come out of both melees.
The incident at Fenway Park is the latest in a long line of confrontations between the Yankees and Red Sox. The most famous of which took place during the 2003 postseason, when Pedro Martinez and Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer tangled up.
That history aside, Wednesday’s original incident at Fenway Park looked similar to the Manny Machado slide last season that injured Dustin Pedroia and set off a season-long feud between the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
We certainly hope this feud doesn’t escalate to that point, where hit batters and purpose pitches were traded over the course of multiple series. If Wednesday’s battle is any indication, this incident probably won’t be forgotten anytime soon. With the Yankees and Red Sox again expected to battle it out all season for a division championship, there was already going to be no shortage of tense games to come this season. This will only add fuel to the fire.
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