CHICAGO (AP) - Manager Ned Yost insists his Kansas City Royals are not at fault for a string of fights. He blames the other teams.
“We haven’t started any of this,” Yost said.
He said opponents are trying to get under his players’ skin and he has challenged them to stay composed.
Yost spoke before Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox, a day after the teams were involved in a benches-clearing melee that resulted in five players being ejected. It could also lead to discipline from the league.
The defending AL champion Royals were leading the Central division at 12-4. But while the wins are mounting, so are the skirmishes.
The latest was at the end of the seventh inning Thursday, when Yordano Ventura snagged a grounder by Adam Eaton. They appeared to have words before Ventura threw to first, and that’s when tensions boiled over.
Eaton had to be restrained from Ventura. The dugouts and bullpens emptied.
Haymakers were thrown. Yost had words with Chicago starter Chris Sale. White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija at one point charged at Yost and landed on top of him.
Ventura was ejected from his second straight game. Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain and pitcher Edinson Volquez also were tossed.
So were Samardzija and Sale, who, according to a report, tried to enter the Kansas City locker room during the eighth inning. Sale would not confirm that, but Volquez and White Sox manager Robin Ventura all but did.
“I didn’t see it but somebody told me he was knocking on the door,” Volquez said.
Robin Ventura said: “There’s other guys there to cool him down and nothing happened. I think those are things that guys react (to) and are emotional and other guys are able to head it off. They do just like guys do out on the field. There guys out there trying to make it people and there were guys that weren’t. Everybody reacts differently in those situations.”
Robin Ventura also was not happy that his top two starters got involved.
“You never like that,” he said. “A lot of things can happen in those (situations) and fortunately, nobody got hurt and everybody’s fine.”
The tensions did not start in the seventh inning.
Yordano Ventura hit Jose Abreu in the fourth and Sale responded by plunking Mike Moustakas in the fifth.
“Tempers flared a little bit, got a little hot but this isn’t going to turn into Fight Club or anything like that,” Sale said.
Clearly, though, there is bad blood. And it didn’t start Thursday.
The teams also combined to hit six batters during their season-opening series, but it’s not just the White Sox.
The Royals also have had issues with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics. They believe part it comes from being the defending AL champions - that they have targets on their backs after years of losing.
“Teams are trying to get in our heads a little more,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “And I think we can just go about it a little differently. I think we can control our emotions a little better because at the end of the day, that’s not who we are. We’re not trying to go out there and pick fights. We’re not starting it by any means. We’re just trying to play baseball and go out there and play the game that we all love playing.”
Yet, the confrontations are mounting.
The benches emptied in all three games against Oakland last weekend. Ventura was ejected from his start against the Athletics for hitting Brett Lawrie in what appeared to be retaliation for a hard slide the previous night that resulted in a sprained left knee for second baseman Alcides Escobar.
There has been no word from the league about possible suspensions for Thursday’s fight, but two Royals pitchers were disciplined after the trouble in Oakland. Reliever Kelvin Herrera was suspended, and both he and Yordano Ventura fined after they targeted Lawrie.
Herrera threw a fastball behind Lawrie’s head, then pointed to his own head in a threatening manner. He is appealing the suspension.
“We’re a team that plays hard, plays with emotion,” Cain said. “Maybe we do need to tone that down a little bit. But at the same time, we’re gonna play hard for each other because that’s just how we play. That’s how we do things.”
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