The Royals and White Sox had a benches-clearing fracas, five players ejected

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The Royals are involved in yet more drama. Last Sunday, the Royals and Athletics had a benches-clearing argument as a beanball war ensued following Brett Lawrie’s ill-advised slide into Alcides Escobar, causing a minor injury on April 17. Yordano Ventura started on the 18th against the Athletics and exacted revenge on behalf of Escobar, throwing a fastball at Lawrie after he had given up five runs to the Athletics in the fourth inning.

Ventura and the Royals were at it again Thursday night, this time against the White Sox. The Royals entered the game having been hit by pitches 16 times, second-most in baseball behind the Rangers, five ahead of the Red Sox and Pirates in a tie for third place.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hit by a 99 MPH Ventura fastball, the sixth pitch in a 2-2 count with no outs. In the top of the fifth, with two outs and the bases empty and an 0-2 count, Chris Sale hit Mike Moustakas with an 86 MPH change-up, the fourth pitch of the at-bat. If Sale were trying to get retribution, it seems odd he’d pick a change-up in an 0-2 count as his opportunity to do so.

Ventura, finishing out the seventh inning, got Adam Eaton to tap into a 1-3 putout. It was a sharp comebacker, but easily handled by Ventura. Rather than simply toss the ball to first base and jog off in silence, Ventura took the opportunity to bark at Eaton, then tossed the ball to first base for the final out of the frame. Eaton was not happy with Ventura’s choice of words. Both benches and bullpens quickly cleared. There was some yelling and shoving for a while. Lorenzo Cain began yelling at Jeff Samardzija, so Samardzija closed in but he was tackled. Someone took a swing at him, but it thankfully did not connect. The blobs of blue and black continued pushing and shoving but the situation was ultimately defused after several minutes.

Five players were ejected: Ventura (obviously), Edinson Volquez, Cain, Sale, and Samardzija. There are certainly going to be fines and suspensions handed down after this one.

Here’s what major leaguer Brett Anderson had to say about Ventura’s behavior:

And here’s an interesting bit of trivia:

Update: Getcha popcorn ready. Here’s video.

[mlbvideo id=”86661883″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”