• Brian L. Barefield

Fighting Frustrations Astros involved in a bench clearing brawl as they drop 5th straight game.

Astros and A's benches clear in the bottom of the 7th inning.

OAKLAND, CA- It has been a frustrating 2020 for the Houston Astros. Outside of being branded as the “Asterisks” and becoming the bad guys of baseball due to the 2017 cheating scandal, they have had their roster decimated by injuries of some of their top players in the first 15 games of the season. To make matters worse they have lost five games in a row and are currently 5 ½ games back of the Oakland A’s for the lead in the A.L. West.

Have I already mentioned that they have been affected by the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 as well? My apologies.

All those factors mixed in with All-Stars George Springer (.182), Jose Altuve (.182) and Alex Bregman (.219) going 34-for-174 at the plate and you can understand how the team as a whole could be frustrated. Those frustrations boiled over on Sunday as Houston (6-9) was involved in a bench clearing incident with the Oakland A’s (12-4) in a 7-2 loss.

It was the Astros second incident of the season. Last month the benches cleared, and words were exchanged with the Los Angeles Dodgers after relief pitcher Joe Kelly threw at the head of Alex Bregman and taunted shortstop Carlos Correa at the end of the same inning. No punches were thrown in that incident that led to Kelly being suspended for eight games.

In the bottom of the seventh inning on Sunday, A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano was hit by a pitch from Astros reliever Humberto Castellanos who was pitching in only the third game of his major league career. Laureano took exception after being hit for the second time in the game and expressed his anger vocally as he headed to first base.

He would eventually end up getting into a shouting match with the Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron that led to Laureano charging the dugout and was immediately tackled by his former teammate Dustin Garneau. The benches cleared but no other physical incident happened.

PhotoCredit/ Ben Margot

“I don’t know what happened,” said Houston manager Dusty Baker who had been ejected from the game earlier for arguing balls and strikes and did not get a chance to witness the brawl. “People always ask if it’s inappropriate for a coach to chirp at a guy, but are you just supposed to sit there and take it? It is in the heat of the moment. We are all men out there with high pride and anxiety and these things happen when you are on the baseball field.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin did not share the same sentiments as Baker did when it came to the on-field incident. Melvin cited that his star player had been hit twice in the game and that his team had been hit a total of five times in the series. Something he didn’t feel was intentional by the Astros pitchers. He backed Laureano in his postgame press conference and knew that it was out of his character to charge another teams dugout without being provoked.

“Ramon doesn’t go over there unless something completely offensive came out of the dugout,” said Melvin. “I think the league will know who that is. That person should get suspended.”

Two A’s players (Laureano and Austin Allen) were ejected from the game once play resumed and could face possible suspensions as early as Monday. MLB made it very clear this season that they would not tolerate on the field skirmishes of any kind as they have rules and regulations in place for teams to social distance from one another to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

MLB’s operational manual for this season clearly states that any on field fighting or instigating a fight is strictly prohibited. Any violations of those rules will result in severe discipline consistent with past precedent, and discipline shall not be reduced or prorated based on the length of the season.

The Astros return to Minute Maid Park on Monday to play the San Francisco Giants.

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