Jeanmar Gomez and Jack Hannahan took one for the team on Saturday night and backed Shin-Soo Choo, who got plunked in the right leg by Jonathan Sanchez in the bottom of the third, and the Tribe held on to prevail in a 10-inning slugfest 11-9.
Sanchez started the third by striking out Hannahan, but then gave up a triple to Michael Brantley that deflected off Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson's glove, followed by a run-scoring single to Asdrubal Cabrera. It was already the fourth hit to go with a walk for Sanchez, demonstrating the lack of command Sanchez had on the evening.
Sanchez then hit Choo on the right leg and Choo approached the mound mouthing something to the effect of "Throw the ball over the plate" as he gestured to the plate with his bat.
If you remember, this is the same Jonathan Sanchez that drilled Choo in the hand and fractured Choo's thumb on June 24 of last year, forcing the right fielder to miss six weeks of the season.
And this is the same Choo that has already gotten his kitchen buzzed on Opening Day by the Blue Jays' Luis Perez and this year already got hit by the White Sox's Chris Sale on the same thumb that was fractured.
Choo was understandably ticked off and had enough. Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Paul Hoynes reported via Twitter that Cleveland reliever Joe Smith said, "The book on Choo is pitch him in. He keeps getting hit and hit. We can't have this guy getting hit."
The benches emptied with pushing and shoving, but nothing other than the massive rugby scrum. Jack Hannahan was really fired up and grabbed Sanchez at one point, but no punches were thrown.
Cooler heads prevailed for the time being, and the Indians went on to score four more runs, highlighted by a run-scoring double by Carlos Santana and a two-run double by Jose Lopez.
In the top of the third, you knew what was coming.
But apparently Mike Moustakas didn't. He told MLB.com, "The guy hadn't given up a hit all day and they were up five runs. If he's going to hit me and put me at first, that's fine. So, I really didn't think...but on the first one on the inner half I said 'Alright, there's a pretty good chance I'm getting it' and I ended up getting another one."
I think this was the perfect time to retaliate. Up five with a comfortable lead, or so it seemed.
Gomez did what he needed to do and drilled Moustakas in the back with the second pitch. Home plate umpire Gary Darling immediately tossed Gomez as warnings had been issued to both benches prior to this half of the inning.
Another melee ensued with both benches and bullpens emptying to engage in pushing and shoving and not much else. Hannahan again was in the middle of it all and engaged in a tussle with Royals manager Ned Yost, who was really just trying to hold up Hannahan.
Hannahan said via Hoynes' Twitter account, "You hit our studs, we hit yours. That's the way baseball always has been played. That's the way it should be played."
Hannahan and Indians manager Manny Acta were ejected along with Gomez.
Gomez said via MLB.com that he was trying to pitch inside and the ball "moved too much." He also said he didn't get the message that warnings had been issued to both benches.
If he wasn't told about the warnings, he took one for the team, probably knowing he would be booted for retaliation and took it upon himself and stuck up for his teammate.
Kudos to Gomez for being a solid teammate.
If Acta did tell Gomez about the warnings and about the consequences (ejection) for retaliation, then Gomez still thought it was necessary to back Choo. It seems that either way, he was saying to his teammates, "I got your back. I got one of theirs."
This is a 24-year-old we're talking about here. He's only pitched a total of 23 games for the Tribe, and he handled this like a veteran.
Another thing I liked about this was that he drilled Moustakas in the back, the right way. Some young pitchers don't have enough command to drill opposing players where they should, in the back, and end up buzzing their heads and threaten serious injury.
I liked Hannahan's moxie here too, sticking up for Choo, whose production the Tribe sorely needs.
Despite the fact that Gomez was ejected, and his actions ended up taxing the bullpen and might have ended up costing the Tribe the game, he did what needed to be done.
Save for Jairo Asencio, who worked the ninth and got the win (1-1), and Chris Perez, who finished off in the 10th and got his second save, the bullpen was ineffective for eight innings of work.
The Royals rallied from a 9-2 hole in the fifth and tied the game up at nine in the eighth on a solo shot by Yuniesky Betancourt (1).
On every Choo at-bat after the two bench-clearing incidents, the Kansas City crowd booed Choo. To wit, he commented via Hoynes' Twitter page: "It's okay. I'm used to Cleveland. They say Choo. It sounds the same as boo."
Comedy gold right there.
Choo got his justice by drilling a two-out, two-run double in the 10th giving the Tribe the 11-9 winning margin.
So in the end, Choo picked up his squad, who had his back in the third.
I like to see that fire and fight in the Tribe that has so far been missing in the young season.