People are really angry this Sunday, it seems. The Reds and Pirates had a benches-clearing incident in Cincinnati, and so did the Blue Jays and Royals.
Royals starter Edinson Volquez hit Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson with a first-pitch fastball in the first inning. Donaldson didn’t like it, and glared at Volquez, but took his spot at first base. Volquez brushed Donaldson back with a first-pitch up-and-in fastball in the third inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, with a runner on second base and one out, Royals reliever Ryan Madson hit Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on the elbow with a 2-2 fastball, the seventh-pitch of the at-bat. Madson, on a 2-2 count against Donaldson, threw another fastball up-and-in, nearly hitting Donaldson in the head. Donaldson clearly wasn’t happy, nor was manager John Gibbons, who was ejected by home plate umpire Jim Wolf.
In the top of the eighth, Blue Jays reliever Aaron Sanchez threw a 2-0 fastball at the knees of Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. Wolf ejected Sanchez from the game. Blue Jays bench coach Demarlo Hale was also ejected. Then the benches cleared. Yodvano Ventura, who didn’t start, was clearly agitated, but his teammates held him back. In the end, it was a typical benches-clearing incident: just a lot of yelling. No one else was ejected. The Royals went on to lose 5-2.
The Braves clinched a postseason berth with Saturday’s 10-1 win over the Nationals. Now, the only question is whether they’ll get there with an NL East division title or via one of two wild card spots currently up for grabs.
Granted, things are looking pretty good on the division title front. After losing their second straight game to the Braves, the Nationals sit 10.5 games back of first place in the NL East, and every other division rival is at least 15 games out. The Braves, meanwhile, carry a magic number of four; should they clinch, it’ll be their 19th franchise title and 14th since they migrated to the East division in 1994.
They certainly looked like postseason contenders on Saturday. Mike Foltynewicz led the charge with six innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball, limiting the Nationals to four hits while rookie right-hander Austin Voth kept the Braves scoreless through 5 2/3 frames. Things started to tip in Atlanta’s favor in the sixth inning: Nick Markakis put the team on the board with an RBI single, and a four-run breakout in the seventh helped cement a sizable lead. Over the last three innings, the Braves found opportunity after opportunity against the Nationals’ bullpen, capitalizing on walks, throwing errors, and productive outs as they climbed toward a double-digit finish.
The win didn’t come without some sacrifice, however. The Braves lost Charlie Culberson to a facial injury after he was struck by a Fernando Rodney fastball in the seventh inning, and they’ll likely be without him for the remainder of the regular season — pending a formal diagnosis, of course. Culberson’s loss isn’t the only one the club is feeling right now, either, as Johan Camargo ended his season with a hairline fracture in his right shin and Freddie Freeman is playing through a minor bout of elbow soreness after making an early exit from Friday’s 5-0 shutout.