In one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros faced off Tuesday night for the first time since the Astros were found responsible for conducting an illegal sign-stealing scheme during their championship-winning 2017 campaign. It didn't take long for Los Angeles, the team that lost to Houston in that World Series, to start picking a fight.
Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly came out for the bottom of the sixth inning tasked with protecting a 5-2 lead while facing the heart of the Astros' lineup. Though he wasn't with the team when it faced Houston in the Fall Classic, Kelly still appeared to be among the players who are angry with the Astros for cheating the game in order to gain a competitive advantage.
After retiring Jose Altuve with one pitch, Kelly seemingly lost control of his fastball. He threw four straight balls to Alex Bregman, with the last one whizzing past the third baseman's head and forcing him to duck down to avoid being hit. Kelly then forced Michael Brantley into a groundout before another four-pitch walk of Yuli Gurriel that included a couple-brushbacks.
That brought up Carlos Correa, who immediately had to hit the dirt when Kelly through a breaking ball straight into the middle of the right-handed batter's box. Correa and Kelly then battled for another five pitches until the reliever buried a breaking ball low and away that forced Correa to swing for strike three. However, that wasn't the end of the saga between them.
The Dodgers and Astros cleared the benches after Joe Kelly struck out and exchanged words with Carlos Correa. pic.twitter.com/Z2l2A1sMG6— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 29, 2020
Words were said, expletives were yelled, faces were made. Social-distancing guidelines were thrown out the window as both dugouts emptied for a confrontation at home plate. No one was ejected and players on both teams eventually returned to their benches without any punches being thrown.
The Nationals don't share the same ire for the Astros that the Dodgers do, but the team has taken plenty of public shots at Houston since beating them in the World Series last fall. Of course, the Nationals also beat the Dodgers in the playoffs during their championship run, so seeing the two teams squabbling with each other has to be a funny sight for the reigning champions.
To make things even more interesting for the Nationals, Kelly was at the center of it all. Kelly was on the mound when Howie Kendrick hit the extra-inning, go-ahead grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS last October. Washington has circulated that highlight all offseason at Kelly's expense. Now, he's thrust himself back into the center of attention and provided baseball fans with quite a few GIFs and memes that he may come to regret.
Then again, maybe Kelly really did have no control of his fastball. He did do this over the offseason.
The Dodgers ultimately won, 5-2. They'll wrap up the quick two-game series in Houston on Wednesday before hosting the Astros in Los Angeles on Sept. 12-13.
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