PHOENIX (AP) — A little bunt single turned this WBC matchup into a World Boxing Classic.
Alfredo Aceves and several players threw nasty punches when a fierce, full-scale brawl broke out in the ninth inning Saturday of Canada’s 10-3 romp over Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, a melee that also involved fans and set off skirmishes in the seats.
“Whoever says that we’re just here as an extra spring training game or we’re just here to say we represented our country and then go home obviously didn’t see how intense that game was and what it means to everybody that was involved,” Canadian slugger Justin Morneau said.
Multiple fights erupted after Canada’s Rene Tosoni was hit in the back by a pitch from Arnold Leon with the score 9-3 at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It quickly turned into a wild scene, as chaotic as any on a major league field in recent years.
Even when the fisticuffs ended, Canadian pitching coach Denis Boucher was hit in the face by a full water bottle thrown from the crowd. Canada shortstop Cale Iorg angrily threw the bottle back into the crowd.
Several police officers came onto the field trying to restore order, and there were a few skirmishes in the decidedly pro-Mexico crowd of 19,581. Seven players were ejected after umpires huddled, trying to sort out the frenzy.
There had already been several borderline plays on the bases when things got out of hand. A bunt hit by Chris Robinson heightened the tension — a WBC tiebreaker relies heavily on runs and the Canadians wanted to score again in the ninth. Third baseman Luis Cruz fielded Robinson’s bunt and seemed to tell Leon to hit the next batter.
Managers from both teams blamed the tiebreaking rule that uses run differential to determine what team moves on to the next round.
“It was just simply a misunderstanding,” Mexico manager Rick Renteria said. “In a normal setting, a normal professional setting I should say, a 9-3 bunt in that particular fashion would be kind of out of the ordinary.”
Right as the game resumed, someone in the crowd hurled a baseball that almost hit Canada first base coach Larry Walker in the head.
“That’s when I went out to the umpire and I said, ‘Another thing comes out, we’re going to pull our team off the field,” Canadian manager Ernie Whitt said.
The collision of WBC rules and the unwritten rules of the game led to the blowup, Renteria said.
“I think in just in the heat of the moment you lose sight of it,” he said, “and maybe that’s how it occurred.”
Whitt said WBC officials need to look at the tiebreaking rule.