Thursday's benches-clearing dust-up was sixth incident of young season for Royals
By Spencer Fordin
Nobody said it would be easy to defend the American League pennant.
The Royals, who have won 12 of their first 16 games, have been right in the middle of a maelstrom in the season's opening month, and they've been involved in multiple bench-clearing incidents. Kansas City has been hit by a pitch 17 times, tied with the Rangers for the most of any MLB club, and the Royals have shown they will stand up for themselves.
"All I know is that Moose hit a homer, [Samardzija] hit me," Cain said, "... and then we started talking."
April 12: Ventura and Trout
There was another incident just six days later, when the Royals faced the Angels. Kansas City won this game to move to 6-0, but Yordano Ventura and the Angels' Mike Trout would overshadow that hot start with their own tense moment. It all appeared to ignite in the sixth inning, when Trout singled off Ventura and the pitcher responded by staring the hitter down at first base.
Trout later came around to score on a double, and after exchanging words with Ventura behind the plate, both benches spilled out onto the field and the bullpens emptied. The two teams milled about on the field after that incident at the plate, and both benches were warned, but there were no ejections as a result.
April 17: The Lawrie Slide
The heat was turned up a notch the following week, when the Royals played the Athletics for the first time this season. The bad blood between the two teams started in the series opener, when Oakland third baseman Brett Lawrie injured Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar with a hard takeout slide at second base.
Lawrie came in hard and slid into Escobar as the shortstop was receiving a relay throw, and Escobar had to be carried off the field with a left knee injury. Both teams came onto the field after that play, and the Royals jawed at Lawrie, but at least one player said Lawrie didn't have hostile intent.
"We're defending AL champs and teams are gunning for us," Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer said after the game. "But I didn't think [Lawrie] was doing anything intentional."
April 18: Ventura and Lawrie
Things got wild the next night, when Ventura plunked Lawrie following a thee-run home run by Josh Reddick. Lawrie went down to first base, and Ventura was ejected immediately by the home-plate umpire. Ventura followed Lawrie up the first-base line and appeared to be talking to him, and both dugouts spilled out and met near home plate. Order was restored after a few tense moments.
Ventura refused to comment on the hit-by-pitch following that game, and home-plate umpire Jim Joyce said that the previous game's drama played into the immediate ejection.
"[Ventura] drilled him right after a home run," Joyce said. "This also pertains to what happened last night, but also for drilling someone right after a home run. The situation deemed it necessary."
April 19: Herrera and Lawrie
The series finale was the scene of another intense incident between the Royals and A's, and this one also included Lawrie. With tensions still high from the night before, Cain was hit by a pitch in the first inning, and two people -- manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland -- were ejected.
Kansas City reliever Kelvin Herrera threw behind Lawrie in the eighth inning and was promptly ejected from the game, and Escobar, who had been injured Friday night, was ejected from the bench. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu, who had taken over for Yost, was also thrown out of the game.
"I'm very proud of the way they rallied. A lot of stuff happened today," Yost said after his team's 4-2 win. "The energy and the life on our team … they were riled up. Trust me, a game like today would hurt a lot worse if you lose."
April 23: Ventura and Eaton
All of that -- four incidents in the first three weeks of the season -- was prelude for the most heated episode of them all, a bench-clearing incident on Thursday night that also featured Ventura. Five players were ejected, including both starting pitchers.
Ventura had hit White Sox slugger Jose Abreu with a pitch early in the game, and Chicago starter Chris Sale later hit Moustakas with a pitch that was high and hard. But the real extracurricular activity started in the seventh, after Adam Eaton hit a grounder right back to the pitcher.
Ventura fielded the ball and appeared to run at Eaton before throwing to first base, and Eaton responded by turning back to confront the pitcher. Both benches spilled out, and the two teams started aggressively pushing each other on the infield in between first base and second base.
Cain and Samardzija, who were involved in the earlier dust-up on Opening Day, went after each other right around first base, and then the scrum turned more more intense. Sale and Samardzija were ejected for the White Sox, and Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Cain were thrown out for the Royals.
"When I fielded the comebacker, it put me off balance and I took those steps," said Ventura through interpreter and fellow pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. "I guess that incited [Eaton], and he said something and I responded back emotionally. I wish it wouldn't have happened like that."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.