A controversial series was expected when we first learned that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros would meet in Houston this week.
A contentious series is exactly what we are already getting.
The benches were cleared in Tuesday’s series opener after Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly uncorked a couple of pitches that didn’t mesh well with the Astros’ hitters.
The first was a 96 MPH fastball that sailed behind Alex Bregman on a 3-0 pitch.
The second was a curved ball that forced Carlos Correa to duck.
While he didn’t hit either batter, the fastball seemed to have a clear intention behind it.
The benches were not cleared until after the inning, when Kelly did this after striking out Correa.
Of course, the discontent comes from the Astros sign-stealing scandal.
Many believe, including Dodger players, that it was Los Angeles that lost the most as a direct result of the Houston scheme. After all, it was the Dodgers who fell to Houston in the 2017 World Series, when the poster-stealing scheme was in full swing. Dodger players have been frank about it in recent months. In fact, Joc Pederson mentioned it just before the game.
#Dodgers OF Joc Pederson does not believe that the team that wins the World Series this year should have an asterisk by name. “They are not cheating to get there,” he said.
– Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) July 28, 2020
It all led to speculation that some form of retaliation was looming.
During the first five innings, Tuesday’s game was uneventful. That changed immediately when Kelly entered. The 32-year-old has been involved in retaliation before. With the Boston Red Sox in 2018, he was suspended six games for hitting Tyler Austin in retaliation for a controversial fall.
No blows were thrown when the banks were emptied. A suspension could still be imposed under the circumstances. A fine is almost certain.
In recent months, baseball’s new rivalry has been forced to push into the background much more important issues affecting the league and the country. But it is clear after Tuesday that this bad blood will not go away anytime soon.