Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was suspended for eight games by Major League Baseball on Wednesday, a day after throwing a fastball near the head of Houston’s Alex Bregman and mockingly taunting Astros star Carlos Correa.
Benches cleared after Kelly’s actions during the sixth inning of Los Angeles’ 5-2 win at Minute Maid Park. The game marked the first time the teams had met since it was revealed Houston stole signs en route to a 2017 World Series title that came at the Dodgers’ expense.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was suspended one game and Astros manager Dusty Baker was fined an undisclosed amount.
Kelly elected to appeal and can continue to play until the process is complete. Roberts was serving his penalty Wednesday night when the Dodgers played at Houston.
Kelly, a hard thrower with a touch of wildness, has previously been suspended in his career for throwing at a batter.
The lingering animosity the Dodgers felt toward the Astros — who were penalized by MLB in the offseason after their scam came to light — had been brewing. It bubbled over when Bregman, a star of the Astros’ run to their championship, came to bat in the bottom of the sixth on Tuesday night.
The Dodgers led, 5-2, when Kelly, who was with Boston in 2017 and also faced Houston that postseason, zipped a 3-0 fastball behind Bregman’s head. Bregman grimaced after jumping to avoid being hit, then trotted to first base.
There were two outs in the inning when Kelly threw a breaking ball over Correa’s head. Correa, who homered and finished with three hits, took off his batting helmet and stared Kelly down before continuing the at-bat.
Kelly struck out Correa to end the inning, then stuck out his tongue and made a face in his direction. Correa started walking toward him and the players exchanged words, prompting the benches to clear in the first such incident of this pandemic-delayed season.
There was plenty of yelling and crowding — outlawed as MLB tries to play a 60-game season amid the pandemic — but there was no pushing or punches thrown.
Kelly denied that he purposely threw at the Astros. He was asked if there was any added motivation Tuesday because his Red Sox team lost to Houston in the AL Division Series in 2017.
“No. When I was with the Red Sox we beat them in ’18,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I pitch competitively. With no fans here, it’s easy to hear some stuff (from the opposing dugout) ... there’s something they apparently didn’t take too kind to.”
After the game, Roberts said he wasn’t sure if Kelly’s pitches were retaliation for Houston’s cheating.
“I really don’t know, to be quite honest,” he said. “I know he got behind Bregman 3-0 and lost a fastball. I really don’t think there was intent behind that. I think those guys took a little bit of offense. Even the one to Correa, that was a breaking ball that just backed up.”
“Obviously the expectation going into the series that things were kind of escalated maybe a little, I don’t know if prematurely’s the word, but that’s kind of what happened,” he said.
Said Baker: “Balls get away sometimes but not that many in the big leagues.”
“When you throw a 3-0 fastball over a guy’s head you’re flirting with ending his career,” he said.
Another Marlin tests positive
Another player with the Miami Marlins has tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the team’s total to 16 players, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the test results were not announced.
Major League Baseball has suspended Miami's season through Sunday and created a patchwork schedule affecting four other teams while the Marlins deal with their outbreak. Two Miami staff members also have tested positive in recent days.
The Marlins remain stranded in Philadelphia, where they played last weekend.
Meanwhile, the Marlins’ outbreak has left the Phillies idle for five days, aiming to return to play a doubleheader that could entail 7-inning games and scheduling a new opponent next week. One employee who works in the visiting clubhouse has tested positive for the coronavirus following a season-opening series against the Marlins in Philadelphia last weekend, but all Phillies players and on-field staff tested negative for a second straight day, general manager Matt Klentak said.
Markakis to rejoin Braves
Nick Markakis is returning to the Braves, three weeks after announcing he was opting out of the season because of his concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Markakis, the veteran outfielder who is in his sixth season with Atlanta, said he changed his mind about sitting out after watching teammates play the first five games.
“Sitting at home, watching these guys compete ... and all the risks they’re going through going out there, in the pit of my stomach I felt I wanted to be out there,” Markakis said.
He said he realized returning was possible following a phone call from Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos earlier this week.
Markakis, 36, said he has the full support of his family, including his three children, in his decision to return.
Soto awaits clearance
Nationals outfielder Juan Soto was still waiting to be cleared to play by the city government after getting the OK from Major League Baseball to return from the COVID-19 injured list. Manager Dave Martinez said the Nationals hope their 21-year-old slugger will be allowed to work out with the team starting Saturday and play in their first game after that — which is next Tuesday at home against the Mets. Soto, who had 34 homers and 110 RBIs during the 2019 regular season and was a breakout star of October, tested positive for the coronavirus and was sidelined on Opening Day last week . . . The Nationals’ starting lineup lost another middle-of-the-order hitter when Howie Kendrick was scratched three hours before the scheduled first pitch of Wednesday night’s game against the Blue Jays because of upper back stiffness . . . The Indians placed starting catcher Roberto Pérez on the 10-day injured list because of a sore throwing shoulder. Pérez hurt his right shoulder while making an off-balance throw in Friday’s season opener when he scrambled to retrieve a third strike that got past him. He slipped and fell while firing the ball to first.