HOUSTON — Astros manager Dusty Baker wasn’t in the mood to talk about the ninth inning of Monday’s 7-4 loss to the Mariners, but he tried to hold his own anyway. Angry, tired and frustrated after a tough loss, Baker spoke in a softer voice than usual while trying to rationalize what led to a bench clearing incident and a series of ejections at Minute Maid Park.
Perhaps the frustration was because it was the second straight game the Astros had one of their relievers ejected in the ninth inning of a game after warnings were issued on the benches. . On Monday, it was Héctor Neris, who drew warnings from plate umpire Chris Guccione when he threw behind Ty France with two outs in the ninth, then was ejected minutes later when he threw a pitch behind Eugenio Suarez.
“I don’t want to talk too much about it because I’m already a little pissed off,” Baker said.
Baker and Neris, who were both sent off automatically because warnings were issued, said neither the pitch that grazed France in the back nor the pitch that sailed behind Suárez was intentional.
“[Guccione] I can’t tell if it’s on purpose or not [the pitch to Suárez]but he said after a warning he had to,” Neris said of the ejection.
When asked if the pitch was intentional, Neris replied, “I have no comment on that.”
The errant pitch to Suárez came two hitters after Julio Rodríguez hit a two-run homer to give the Mariners a 7-4 lead and scored France, who had been hit by a pitch for a 12th time in top of the Major League. He tied for the MLB lead last year with 27 hits.
“In a one-point game, you’re not going to annoy somebody by throwing at them,” Baker said. “We don’t do that anyway.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais disagreed, which is why he started yelling at the opposing dugout after France got hit. The benches and relievers emptied as the players gathered at home plate, but there were no physical altercations. Servais and Astros first base coach Omar López was ejected at this time.
“He threw behind Ty France, that’s pretty clear,” Servais said. “Coming into the show, whatever happened to them yesterday, we weren’t involved in that. Three or four guys all year [four in 23 1/3 innings prior to Monday].”
France said Guccione asked him if he thought Neris’ blow-by-blow was intentional, and he said no. Mariners starter Robbie Ray threw a wild pitch that nearly hit Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker in the fifth inning, but it didn’t seem to fan the flames that blazed in the ninth.
“It got me and I didn’t hear the ref say it got me, so I turned around and told them to check it out and the ref said ‘No, I got it ‘” France said. “I asked him, ‘You don’t think that was intentional, do you, because of the throw at Tucker earlier in the game? And he was like, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, in a one-point game, I don’t think so.’ Then I looked up and their canoe was racing towards me.”
Last July, Astros pitcher Brooks Raley was suspended three games and fined for hitting Mariners shortstop JP Crawford after Dylan Moore hit a grand slam in Seattle. Baker received a one-game suspension.
“There seems to be some bad blood brewing, even from last year,” Baker said.
Astros reliever Ryan Pressly was ejected in the ninth inning of Sunday’s win at Kansas City after standing up when cautions were issued following a pair of inside pitches to Michael A. Taylor. Houston ended up using two more relievers – Phil Maton and Rafael Montero – as a result, and on Monday the club needed Bryan Abreu to exit the final of the ninth after Neris was ejected.
“It kind of snowballed into bad things for us,” Baker said.