Tempers flared and the benches cleared in the sixth inning of Monday night’s game between the Rangers and Astros. First, the back story.
Rangers starter Andrew Cashner hit Astros second baseman Jose Altuve with a 92.5 MPH first-pitch fastball with two outs and none on in the bottom of the first inning. Cashner would also hit first baseman Yulieski Gurriel leading off the top of the second with a 1-0, 90 MPH fastball.
In the top of the fourth inning, Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli hit a solo home run to center field with one out in the fourth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie. In the sixth, Napoli came to the plate again and Astros starter Lance McCullers threw a fastball behind him, which Napoli didn’t think was a nice idea. Both benches emptied but order was quickly restored. McCullers finished off the at-bat by striking out Napoli and appeared “fired up,” as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart tells it.
It’s possible Cashner was trying to intentionally hit the Astros’ batters, but he entered Monday’s start having issued 13 unintentional walks (though no hit batsmen) in 15 1/3 innings. He doesn’t exactly have impeccable control.
2019 has been one long nightmare for the Pirates. They’re in last place in the NL Central, have had multiple clubhouse fights, and can’t stop getting into bench-clearing incidents. The embarrassment continued on Sunday as the club lost 16-6 to the Cubs, suffering a three-game series sweep in Chicago.
One of those 16 runs the Pirates allowed was particularly noteworthy. In the bottom of the third inning, with the game tied at 5-5, the Cubs had runners on first and second with two outs. Tony Kemp hit a triple to right field, allowing both Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward to score to make it 7-5. The Pirates thought one of the Cubs’ base runners didn’t touch third base on their way home. Reliever Michael Feliz attempted to make an appeal throw to third base, but it was way too high for Erik González to catch, so Kemp scored easily on the error.
The Pirates lost Friday’s game to the Cubs 17-8 and Saturday’s game 14-1. They were outscored 47-15 in the three-game series. According to Baseball Reference, since 1908, the Pirates never allowed 14+ runs in three consecutive games and only did it two games in a row twice before this series, in 1949 and in 1950. The Cubs scored 14+ in three consecutive games just one other time, in 1930.