From the beginning, it felt pretty clear that Yordano Ventura was up to something.
The second inning saw the Royals starter throw a pitch inside to Orioles shortstop Manny Machado. No big deal. Then, he threw a little further inside on the next pitch - far enough inside that the ball might have been inside Machado had he not hopped out of the way. Machado responded by staring him down and then pummeling a pitch to deep right center that might have gone out of the park had it not been caught in a howling wind gust. On his way back to the dugout, no one was surprised to see Machado share some of his thoughts on the at-bat with Ventura.
Three innings later in the fifth, Ventura summoned all of the velocity he could find and bounced a 99 m.p.h. heater, the highest he'd hit on the radar gun all evening, off Machado's ribs.
And it was off to the races.
It was one of the most immensely quotable scuffles in recent memory.
Yordano Ventura: "My plan was to pitch inside and one got away." [Rustin Dodd]
Manny Machado: "I don't regret anything." [MLB.com]
Buck Showalter: "Obviously, it must be something that’s OK because [Ventura] continues to do it. It must be condoned." [MASN]
Ned Yost: "I’m thinking, he’s gonna pitch him inside again. It looked to me like it got away from him, but I don’t know who’s at fault there." [Kansas City Star]
Adam Jones on Yordano Ventura: "The talent is all there, but between the ears, there’s a circuit board that’s off balance."— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) June 8, 2016
Eric Hosmer: "It wasn’t something that a majority of us were really expecting happening." [Kansas City Star]
You can point to the 2014 ALCS, in which the cocky young Royals swept the Orioles out of the playoffs, as the starting point for any brooding emotions between these two clubs. But the brawl expands Ventura's already full resume in this regard, as the 25-year-old was already a key player in three bench-clearing differences of opinion last season with the White Sox, Angels, and A's. When asked if Ventura's behavior was starting to weigh on his own teammates, Royals manager Ned Yost replied, "Yeah, probably."
After the umpires had everyone sit in a circle in the outfield and talk about their feelings, play resumed. The Orioles, as is often the case, got home runs from Ryan Flaherty, Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones and went on to hand Kansas City their sixth straight loss, 9-1.
Obviously, the league will have something to say about all this. At least publicly, Machado seems to have already accepted that suspensions are a part of life when you charge the mound, and his manager is backing him up. But the O's have already had the left side of their infield dealt a blow by shortstop J.J. Hardy's hairline foot fracture.
On the other side, Ventura doesn't see a reason for him to be suspended. The Royals, too, are playing a few men down as is, with any suspensions deepening the impact of the absence of key players. Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon are currently missing from their lineup due to a season-ending ACL injury and a fractured wrist, respectively.