It only took three days for MLB to see its first bench-clearing brawl of the 2021 season, and it wasn't long before the umpires delivered one of the year's more questionable calls.
The brawl in question came during Saturday's game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. In the fourth inning, Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos took home on a wild pitch from Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford.
As the dust cleared on a play at the plate, Castellanos gave Woodford the full Allen Iverson treatment. Cardinals veteran catcher Yadier Molina was not amused, immediately charging after Castellanos and giving him a shove in the back as he walked to the dugout.
You can see how things escalated from there:
One person was ejected for the incident. Was it the person who started the brawl? Nope, it was Castellanos. Despite him being one of the few people involved in the brawl who wasn't clearly breaking COVID-19 protocols:
Players or managers who leave their positions to argue with umpires, come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in altercations on the field are subject to immediate ejection and discipline, including fines and suspensions.
The circumstances at play here go back to opening day on Thursday, when Castellanos hit the Reds' first home run of the season. You may notice him skipping down the first base line as he watches the ball fly over the left field fence:
Even though the Cardinals won that game 11-6, their feelings may or may not have been hurt. One game later, Castellanos took a first-pitch fastball off the shoulder from Woodford. He clearly wasn't happy about it, staring down Woodford, exchanging the words with Molina and picking up the ball that hit him:
So you can imagine why Castellanos might have been rather pleased that he could score by sliding right past Woodford.
As heated as the situation was, Castellanos took it all in good humor after the game, a 9-6 Reds win. He even praised Molina as a legend, via MLB.com's Mark Sheldon:
"That guy could have punched me in the face and I'd still ask him for a signed jersey."
Meanwhile, Woodford was denying he ever meant to intentionally plunk Castellanos (an admission would almost certainly lead to a hefty fine and potential suspension). And Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright was denying he had a problem with Castellanos' home run celebration on Thursday, but did disapprove of Castellanos picking up the ball after the hit-by-pitch.
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