Joe Kelly of the Los Angeles Dodgers wasted no time reintroducing himself to the Houston Astros on Tuesday night, inciting tensions three years in the making.
Many fans were worried the Houston Astros wouldn’t face much retribution in 2020 for their involvement in a sign-stealing scandal that arguably stole the 2017 World Series from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Enter righty reliever Joe Kelly in the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s contest between the Dodgers and Astros, who made sure that would be far from the case.
Making his second relief appearance of the year out of Los Angeles’ bullpen, Kelly wasted no time sending a message to Astros’ stars Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.
First, a high and tight fastball that nearly brazed the former.
Next, a myriad of deriding facial expressions and some unflattering (let’s put it that way) comments aimed at the latter as the eventful sixth inning came to a close.
What would ensue after was nothing short of complete and total chaos.
Social distancing and mask-wearing in the era of Coronavirus be damned, neither bench was given warnings, leading to empty dugouts and confrontations aplenty as tensions boiled over onto the field.
Clearly, some lingering hatred between the two clubs had remained unsettled since the fall classic from three years ago.
At first glance, one would assume that a Dodger from the 2017 team would be the likeliest candidate to extract revenge on their former World Series opponent.
This falling out came with an extra twist, though.
Joe Kelly wasn’t even on the 2017 Dodgers.
Despite this, Kelly has still had his fair share of postseason interactions with the Astros over the years.
Pitching on the Boston Red Sox from 2014-2018, Kelly’s former team lost to Houston in the American League Division Series in 2017, but managed to defeat them in the American League Championship Series in 2018, en route to a Red Sox title in 2018.
Of course, Dodgers fans need not be reminded of the pain of losing back-to-back championships, both of which were tainted in some form.
After the game, Kelly denied any intentional wrongdoing, claiming “my accuracy isn’t the best” when referencing the high pitches.
As you would expect, the Astros and their manager, Dusty Baker, did not receive those comments well, arguing the intended malice was apparent.
Whoever you choose to believe in this predicament, both sides have a case.
Kelly is one of baseball’s more inconsistent pitchers, combining a penchant for strikeouts (10.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 2019) with a tendency to walk a fair number of batters he faces (3.9 walks per nine innings in 2019), indicating his command isn’t always sound.
The tape doesn’t appear to lie either, though, as Kelly was clearly shown taunting the Astros on his way back to the dugout.
In the end, the Dodgers got their revenge. The rest of baseball saw this coming, and the Astros should have as well.
At least we can all agree that this was the first baseball brawl of 2020, and it didn’t disappoint.
UPDATE: Kelly received an 8-game suspension from MLB for his actions on Wednesday.