Kansas City Royals

Brad Keller fastball that ‘got away’ leads to Royals, White Sox benches clearing

The bench-clearing altercation between the Royals and Chicago White Sox on Wednesday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field may be viewed by some onlookers as an outdated or barbaric. Whether you believe that, it was also entirely predictable and arguably inevitable.

The Royals (6-12) pulled off a 4-3 win in 10 innings to avoid being swept in a three-game series, but the part of the day that left the largest imprint came in the middle of the sixth inning.

The most shocking thing about Brad Keller’s fastball that landed squarely on the buttocks of Tim Anderson was that the White Sox acted as though he didn’t see it coming after Anderson celebrated demonstratively after a two-run home run.

“I’ll just say that’s not the player I am,” Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier said. “I mean, I know he’s an emotional player. I think the whole situation — when you do something like that, you kinda know you’re going to get hit. Once you get hit, just deal with it. Go to first. That’s my take on it.”

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Keller, the Royals starting pitcher, gave up a two-run home run to Anderson in the fourth inning. Anderson took the opportunity to throw the bat defiantly towards his dugout and let out a roar while looking at his own bench after his home run sailed high and far into the left-field stands

The bat traveled slightly shorter than the homer and earned Anderson a glare from Royals catcher Martin Maldonado as Anderson crossed home plate.

Maldonado, a native of Puerto Rico, was asked after the game if he noticed the bat flip. His eyes widened before he replied, “I think my mom saw that from back home. Everybody saw that.”

Maldonado also said that the bat flip didn’t bother him as much as Anderson taking the time to yell to the dugout.

“I get it if he hits it like that for a walk-off,” Maldonado said. “Fine. But you know, it was way early in the game. I know everybody reacts differently, but still at the same time you’ve got to respect the game.”

The next time Anderson came to the plate, in the sixth inning, Keller’s first pitch, a 92 mph fastball, smacked into Anderson’s rear end. Anderson proceeded to shout towards Keller before heading to first base. Maldonado stepped between Anderson and the mound. Once that happened, the benches emptied and pitchers came jaunting in from their bullpens.

“Keller did the right thing,” Dozier said. “He aimed for the lower body. Hit him. It should just be like OK go to first and move on. It shouldn’t have been as big of a situation as it was in my opinion, but I could be wrong. I don’t know.”

It’s worth noting that the company line uttered by Royals manager Ned Yost, Maldonado and Keller was that the pitch that hit Anderson “got away” from Keller as he tried to pitch inside.

Yost’s response to a question about Keller’s actions was, “What, that a pitch got away from him?”

Keller, who walked four batters in the game, claimed he was disappointed by the pitch he made that Anderson hit for the home run and leaving the ball over the middle of the plate.

As for the pitch that hit Anderson?

“I was trying to go in on him,” Keller said. “My command wasn’t the best today. A ball got away from me. I’m not trying to put a guy on in a 2-2 game, especially the leadoff guy.”

Royals bench coach Dale Sveum, White Sox manager Rick Renteria, Keller and Anderson watched the end of the game from the clubhouses after all were ejected. Keller’s ejection was his first, while Sveum’s marked the 16th of his career, including his sixth as a coach (10 as a manager, one as a player).

Sveum had to be restrained at one point when players and staff were on the field shouting back and forth as pushing and shoving ensued.

“Ball gets away from the pitcher, just take your base,” Sveum said. “I’m an old-school guy and if you just take your base and everything will be fine.”

Once the altercation appeared to have settled down, Renteria apparently took objection to some of the chatter he heard from players in front of the Royals’ dugout and Yost restrained Renteria, pushing him back towards the mound and shouting for him to calm down.

“What happened was that (umpire and crew chief) Joe West was trying to get everyone back to the dugouts,” Yost said. “So I turned around to get my team back and Rick started screaming and yelling at my guys. And I’m like, ‘Nobody is going to yell at my team.’ I got no issues (with Renteria) but nobody is going to yell at my team. … That’s not going to happen. You know, just give me a second and I’ll get them back.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.