Bench-clearing confrontation over simmering Astros-Dodgers feud leads to suspensions

Tempers flared as the two teams met for first time since Houston's cheating scandal came to light.
Image: Los Angeles Dodgers v Houston Astros
Benches empty out after Joe Kelly of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw high inside pitches to Houston Astros players Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas.Bob Levey / Getty Images

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By David K. Li

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and relief pitcher Joe Kelly were suspended Wednesday, following a heated confrontation with the Houston Astros in their first meeting since a sign-stealing scandal rocked baseball earlier this year.

Major League Baseball banned Kelly for eight games in a suspension he's appealing, so he'll be in uniform when the Dodgers take the field in Houston on Wednesday.

Roberts was suspended for one game and he'll sit out Wednesday's matchup while Bob Geren takes over temporarily, the team said.

The Astros and Dodgers left their benches and exchanged angry words Tuesday after Kelly threw two pitches uncomfortably close to two Houston players — though he didn't hit them.

During this past off-season, an MLB investigation found that the Astros used cameras to steal hand signals between opposing pitchers and catchers, and then relayed that crucial information to their batters during Houston's World Series-winning 2017 season.

The Astros won the Fall Classic that year by edging the Dodgers in a full seven-game set.

And with that scandal in the backdrop Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Kelly threw high-and-tight pitches to Houston stars Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa in the sixth inning.

Correa would eventually strike out against Kelly, who then stuck out his tongue and made a face at the batter. Correa began walking toward Kelly and the players exchanged heated words before their benches cleared.

Order was restored in a few minutes and no punches were thrown.

Houston Astros' Carlos Correa, right, ducks from a pitch thrown by Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly on July 28, 2020, in Houston. Both benches emptied after the inning.David J. Phillip / AP

Kelly was not a member of the Dodgers in 2017, but Bregman and Correa were both key players for Houston in that championship season.

First-year Houston manager Dusty Baker, who was not with the organization during the sign-stealing operation, accused Kelly of endangering his players.

“Balls get away sometimes but not that many in the big leagues,“ Baker told reporters following the Dodgers' 5-2 victory on Tuesday. “When you throw a 3-0 fastball over a guy’s head now you’re flirting with ending his career.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had warned players not to retaliate against the Astros.

Kelly said those errant throws were not intentional.

"I wasn't feeling the greatest," he told reporters. "I wasn't the most comfortable. It took me a while to get into my mechanics."

Before Tuesday night, Kelly was best known for a viral video earlier this year of him trying to stay sharp during the four months pro baseball was shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in April, Kelly's wife posted footage of the L.A. reliever practicing a new pitch — that got away and shattered a window at their home.