Angels lose in melee-filled contest
Saunders suffers first big-league loss in contentious affair
ARLINGTON -- The escalating tension between the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers finally boiled over Wednesday night, culminating in a bench-clearing scrum that could prove costly to both teams' pursuit of division-leading Oakland.
Second baseman Adam Kennedy faces a lengthy suspension after he charged Rangers reliever Scott Feldman in the ninth inning of the Angels' 9-3 loss before 31,723 at Ameriquest Field. After retiring the first two hitters of the inning, Feldman hit Kennedy on the buttocks with a fastball, in apparent retaliation for two Texas batters getting hit in the eighth.
"You wish it didn't have to happen that way, but I didn't have a choice," said Kennedy, who was unhurt after exchanging a few wild swings with the Texas pitcher. "Hopefully, it won't be too damaging."
But Kennedy almost certainly will be suspended for several games once Major League Baseball vice president Bob Watson examines the video tape and umpires' reports. Also ejected and facing suspensions or fines were Angels manager Mike Scioscia, bench coach Ron Roenicke, pitchers Kevin Gregg and Brendan Donnelly, and the Rangers' Feldman and manager Buck Showalter.
Rangers third baseman Mark DeRosa, a former collegiate quarterback at the University of Pennsylvania, helped quell the violence quickly with a clean tackle of Kennedy, levied as players from both dugouts and bullpens swarmed the infield. No other punches appeared to have been thrown.
"Once we got out there," Kennedy said, "it was about as subdued as it can be in a situation like that."
Feldman, who dropped his glove and took the first swing at the oncoming infielder, said, "I wasn't shocked [that Kennedy charged], because of all the hit batters earlier in the game. If that's what he wanted to do, I wasn't shocked. I looked up, and there he was coming."
The scuffle was not unexpected. During Tuesday's opener of this two-game series, the Angels rallied to claim a 9-7 victory but were angered that top run-producers Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera each were hit by pitches thrown by Rangers starter Vicente Padilla, and that MVP candidate Guerrero had to duck to avoid two other pitches near his head.
No Angels pitchers fired back Tuesday, and Scioscia insisted before Wednesday's game that was how he wanted it, because "retaliation with beanballs is not part of our package."
Both teams played nice until the eighth inning Wednesday. But by then, the Angels were in a 9-3 hole and frustrated, after the Rangers had scored eight runs in the third to dispatch previously unbeaten rookie Joe Saunders
Gregg, who gave up a third-inning grand slam in relief of Saunders, still was on the mound with two out in the eighth when he threw a pitch behind the back of Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. That pitch drew a warning from plate umpire Sam Holbrook.
Kinsler responded with a double, bringing Michael Young to the plate. Gregg then hit the Rangers' All-Star shortstop in the back with a fastball. Young dropped his bat and calmly jogged to first, as Holbrook ejected Gregg and Scioscia.
Donnelly came in for a much briefer appearance. He hit Rangers rookie outfielder Freddy Guzman on the right hip with a fastball, drawing more boos along with an ejection for himself and Roenicke. Pitching coach Bud Black became the Angels' second interim manager of the game.
That's where things might have ended. But after retiring the first two hitters in the top of the ninth, while Texas fans booed their displeasure, Feldman hit Kennedy.
"I think all the points were made, and then they put an exclamation point on it there at the end," Kennedy said. "They really left me with no choice."
"Obviously, it was an unfortunate evening," said Scioscia, who kept the Angels' clubhouse closed for 28 minutes after the game for a heated team meeting. "You never want it to get to that point, especially at this time of year."
The real beneficiary will be the Athletics, who still lead the Angels and Rangers by 6 1/2 games in the American League West. The pursuing clubs almost certainly will be playing shorthanded later this week after the expected suspensions are levied.
Scioscia claimed both Gregg and Donnelly told him their pitches simply got away, and that "with the timing of what's been going on, that was very unfortunate." But he added, "Texas keeps taking it a step further. ... Whatever philosophy they have, they've tried to send some messages throwing behind our hitters and hitting our guys, and that's been disturbing."
Saunders, who had given up only seven runs (five earned) in 27 innings to win his first four starts, was knocked out after 2 2/3 innings on Wednesday after allowing eight runs (seven earned). His ERA swelled from 1.67 to 3.64.
Texas starter Adam Eaton gave up just two runs in seven uneventful innings, and the Angels managed another run in the eighth off reliever C.J. Wilson. Third baseman Maicer Izturis drove in all three runs for the Angels with a two-run homer and an RBI single.
Los Angeles finished its 10-game road trip with a 5-5 record, slipping from three games behind Oakland to 6 1/2 back during the journey. Whatever other losses they incur will soon be up to Watson to decide.
"The suspensions are definitely not something you want to have this time of year," Angels pitcher John Lackey said. "But, sometimes, you run out of options and things happen.
"Sometimes, things like this will bring a team together. Hopefully, that will be the case. We're definitely in it together, and that's good to see."
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.