These Kansas City Royals have a little Gashouse Gang in them.
Go, fight, win.
The defending American League champions’ brawl with the White Sox at the conclusion of the seventh inning Thursday night was just the latest in a string of dustups, fights and altercations this season, and they’re only 16 games into it.
Like the rough-and-tumble 1934 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, the Royals are mixing it up with whoever gets in their way — and winning while they’re at it. They’re rolling with a 12-4 record, already five games ahead of the Sox in the loss column and 4-0 against them.
“They are a young group of guys who go about their business in an exciting and aggressive way,” White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton said. “And that’s why we have the utmost respect for them. They’ve earned everything they’ve gotten and now they want to keep it.”
Thursday’s bench clearer that resulted in ejections of Sox Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale and Royals Yordano Ventura, Lorenzo Cain and Edinson Volquez began when Eaton hit a comebacker to Ventura. After Ventura gloved the ball with two outs in the seventh, he took two aggressive steps toward Eaton, showed him the ball and yelled “F— you” at the Sox leadoff man before throwing to first base for the out.
That may have been a reaction to Eaton, who, he was coming out of the batter’s box appeared to say something to the pitcher, who had quick-pitched him.
Both dugouts and bullpens emptied, punches were thrown, a few kicks delivered as players and coaches formed a sea of White Sox black and Royal blue near first base. Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, trying to keep the peace, was thrown to the ground. He wasn’t the only one.
Just another day at the office for the Royals. But at this rate, it might be a little much.
“It’s a shame it keeps happening,” said Eric Hosmer, who drove in the winning run in the 13th run with a double against Jake Petricka. “I don’t know what it is. We have to find a way to go out there and keep playing the game. That’s not what we’re about as a team. We’re emotional but we’re letting emotions getting the best of us right now. We have to figure it out and get back to playing baseball.”
The background on the Sox-Royals bad blood: Eight hit batters in four games, including Ventura plunking Sox star Jose Abreu near the left elbow in the fourth inning and Sale hitting Mike Moustakas with an up-and-in four-seam fastball in the fifth.
The background on the scrapping Royals: Ventura was also thrown out in his last start Saturday after he hit the Athletics’ Brett Lawrie. That came after he allowed a three-run homer to Josh Reddick. On April 13, Ventura almost got into it with the Angels’ Mike Trout near home plate, apparently taking exception to Trout hitting a line single over his head. That caused benches to clear, but without much incident.
The Royals and A’s cleared benches Sunday, when five players and coaches were ejected, including Kelvin Herrera — who threw a fastball behind Lawrie’s head. Lawrie’s hard slide into shortstop Alcides Escobar caught the Royals’ attention in that series.
“It seems to follow them [the Royals] around,’’ Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s happened often enough, so, I think everybody gets emotional and reacts to things. And that’s what happened.’’
Herrera was suspended five games pending an appeal for throwing at Lawrie.
Suspensions and fines are likely in the aftermath of this one as well. Expect MLB to review and announce something as soon as Friday, although it could take longer. There were so many players involved, it’s not out of the question that some who escaped punishment Thursday could be subject to discipline.
Afterward, Yordano Ventura appeared contrite.
“I was unable to control my emotions on that play and it turned out ugly,’’ he said through interpreter and teammate Jeremy Guthrie.
“When [Eaton] said something to me, I responded emotionally and I wished it wouldn’t have happened like that.’’
Despite the bad blood, Eaton said he has the utmost respect for the Royals.
“I really do,’’ he said. “I think they play the game the right way. They have some great pitching and some good hitters over there that play the game the right way.
“Two competitive teams scratching for the same goal. Sometimes it gets the best of you. Ventura is a heck of a competitor. I respect the heck out of him and everyone behind him. I’m a competitor as well. Sometimes boys will be boys and I think that was a situation where we had some excitement.”