The Orioles were quick to assign blame to the visiting Kansas City Royals for the hit-by-pitch that incited a fifth-inning brawl between pitcher Yordano Ventura and shortstop Manny Machado on Tuesday.
Across the field at Camden Yards, Ventura and manager Ned Yost took a different view on the lead-up to Machado charging the mound. In the second inning, Machado took exception to an inside fastball, then reacted as if he’d hit a home run on what turned out to be a well-hit flyout to left field.
Ventura and Machado exchanged words at that point, and when he was asked who was at fault, Yost demurred.
“That’s a tough question to answer,” Yost said. “Ventura in Manny’s first at-bat was pitching him in. Obviously, he doesn’t like it. He flew out and was screaming at Ventura. I’m thinking, he’s going to pitch him inside again. It looked to me like it got away from him, but I don’t know who’s at fault there.”
Ventura, speaking through Royals catching coach Pedro Grifol, said “coming into today my plan was fastballs inside and breaking balls in the dirt. One got away and that was it.”
As to the reaction, Ventura said: “I was surprised kind of. Everyone knows what kind of player [Machado] is. Everybody has to defend themselves at that point.”
Ventura has developed a reputation for having a short fuse, featuring several starts last year that had controversy sparked by him either throwing at a player or yelling at them.
A reporter asked Yost if this was a sign that Ventura, 25, hasn’t matured from that.
“You’re telling me, if it wasn’t a slip, you want me to make an answer?” Yost said. “I’m not going to answer that.”
He also said teammates were “probably” a little frustrated by finding themselves in situations like that with Ventura.
The game situation likely compounded the situation with Ventura. By the time Machado took exception to an inside fastball from Ventura in the second inning, Ventura was already trailing 5-0. The Orioles had four straight hits to open the first inning, and scored four runs on five hits in the frame before third baseman Ryan Flaherty hit his first home run of the season in the second inning.
“He came out the pen and [catcher Salvado Perez] said, ‘Wow, he’s got it going today,’ and 13 pitches later, we’re down four runs,” Yost said. “You make a mistake, those guys are going to jump on it.”
While Machado said he was expecting discipline, Ventura told reporters that he didn’t know why that would be necessary.
“I don’t think that should be in order,” Ventura said. “My plan was to pitch inside and one got away. And things happened, and benches cleared. … I just have to protect myself and defend myself. I just can’t stand there.”