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Days Of Simmering Red-Assedness Lead To Sudden Basebrawl

José Siri goes after Abner Uribe, with Rhys Hoskins in the middle.
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

José Siri of the Tampa Bay Rays hit a harmless little grounder up the first baseline in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's tilt with the Brewers. Milwaukee first baseman Rhys Hoskins fielded the ball and underhanded it to reliever Abner Uribe, who beat a trotting Siri to the bag by maybe 20 yards. Siri continued his jog up the line, pointlessly, as players are impelled by tradition and hidebound managers to do. Uribe circled back and moseyed down the line with the apparent goal of deliberately bumping into Siri, and then appeared to mutter something.

“There were some words shared that didn’t have much to do with the game that probably shouldn’t have been shared there in that exchange," recalled Uribe, via interpreter Daniel de Mondesert, after the conclusion of Milwaukee's 8–2 win. It's not clear whether Uribe is describing his own words or Siri's; Siri, for his part, recalled only asking Uribe why he'd come back down the line to bump shoulders, which he says Uribe answered with, "Because I felt like it." The two faced up. Umpire Alex MacKay stepped between them, but not in time. Uribe, who seems to have been determined to start something, threw a right hand to the side of Siri's helmet, and hell—not all, but some—broke loose.

This appears to have flashed all the way to fisticuffs from out of nowhere, but the Brewers have been in a bad mood for a couple of days and that bad mood has finally selected Siri as a point of catharsis. Over the weekend the Brewers were blown out, by a total score of 30–8, in consecutive losses to the Yankees; in the second of these, Sunday afternoon, they were disadvantaged by a judgment call when umpires ruled that Aaron Judge had not interfered when he threw a padded hand up while sliding into second, disrupting a relay throw on what should've been a routine double-play. A couple batters later the Yankees began piling up hits in what would become a seven-run two-out rally to blow the game open. After it was over, crew chief Andy Fletcher acknowledged that they'd made the wrong call.

Then again, on Monday, the Brewers were pissed about the circumstances of a much narrower loss, this time to the visiting Rays. Down 1–0 in the ninth inning, the Brewers put runners on second and third with one out against Tampa Bay reliever Jason Adam. Adam's fourth pitch to Jake Bauers, a 1–2 slider, bounced on the way in; Bauers took a bad swing for strike three, but the ball squirted under catcher René Pinto, allowing the runner on third to scramble home for the clutch tying run. Unfortunately for the Brewers, Bauers's swing clipped Pinto's helmet as the ball was bouncing away, and head umpire Chris Guccione felt his crew was bound by the rules to call backswing interference and to force the runners to return to their stations. Brewers manager Pat Murphy argued, to no avail, and was ejected. Milwaukee failed to plate the run, and lost.

Guccione had a role in Tuesday's fracas. Freddy Peralta, on the mound for the Brewers, was dealing. The only hit or walk he'd allowed through five-plus innings was to Siri, who'd socked a mighty solo dinger in the third inning. Siri is a dinger enjoyer, and did a very cool bat-drop while watching the poor punished baseball sail off to baseball hell. The game otherwise proceeded smoothly. In the top of the fifth inning Peralta grazed the jersey of Harold Ramirez for the most technical of hit-by-pitches. In the bottom of the same inning, Rays pitcher Jacob Lopez hit Hoskins with a wayward slider. Nothing was made of any of this, and no warnings were issued. By the time Siri came back up to the plate again in the sixth inning, the game was getting out of hand; Milwaukee had plated three in the fifth to make the score 6–1 and was into Tampa Bay's bullpen. Peralta, who had thrown just 63 pitches to that point, fell behind 3–0 and then fired a fastball directly into the meat of Siri's thigh.

Guccione felt this was suspicious behavior. "He'd hit a home run in the top of the third and it was a first-pitch home run. So he ran the bases, whatever, and nothing was really said that we noticed," Guccione said after the game, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Then you go to the sixth inning, a 3–0 count, and the pitch that hit Siri went right at him." Guccione and his crew huddled and decided to skip right past a warning, ejecting Peralta without much by way of discussion or explanation. Peralta, who had never previously been ejected from a game in his career, insisted afterwards that he did not bean Siri, although Uribe's evident red-assedness in the eighth inning tends to support the idea that the Brewers were holding something against the Rays outfielder. Murphy was furious about Peralta's ejection, and he and Guccione spent a couple minutes on the field barking at one another, an exchange that included Murphy's second ejection in two games.

So a lot of frustrations were still simmering among the Brewers, most of them about umpiring, when Uribe collected that lob from Hoskins to record an unremarkable out. Unfortunately, it is the time-honored role of mop-up relievers in baseball to cathartically dispel their team's angst, and usually at the expense of an opposing batter. Perhaps all of this could've been avoided, except that Siri was also observing a time-honored baseball tradition: One must always run out every grounder, no matter how hopeless the act or how out-of-hand the score. The lesson here is obvious: It is the thumb of the unwritten rules and the boot of incompetent umpiring, both always pressing down, that turns players against each other. Free yourselves from this prison! Don't run out grounders, give the umpire the finger when he deserves it, and do no harm to each other.

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