ARLINGTON --The Rangers did not want this to escalate into a brawl. Before Scott Feldman took the mound in the ninth inning, Rangers sources said he was specifically instructed from the bench not to throw at any Angels hitters. Feldman either didn't listen or was telling the truth when he said the pitch just got away from him.
But the fifth hit-by-pitch in two nights was one too many and seething emotions finally boiled over with a classic mound-charging brawl at the end of the Rangers' 9-3 victory over the Angels on Wednesday night. A grand slam by Nelson Cruz in an eight-run third inning and seven strong innings from Adam Eaton allowed the Rangers to pull back into a tie for second place with the Angels, 6 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics. But the Rangers' sixth win in their past seven games was more notable for what happened in the final two innings, with a total of seven people getting tossed from the game. The brawl was set off when Feldman hit Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy in the back with a pitch with two outs in the ninth. Kennedy immediately charged the mound, where he and Feldman started inexpertly flailing away at each other before teammates from both sides converged on the scene. "One just got away from me," said Feldman, who is one of several facing suspension for his role in the brawl. "I was going inside, and with the situation that occurred earlier in the game, obviously I was going to get tossed out for that one." But catcher Gerald Laird said, "That just shows how gutsy Feldman is. He has a lot of respect from all his hitters and his offensive players to go out there and not care about the situation. You hit our guys, we hit you back, and that's the way it is." The Angels weren't happy that Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla had hit Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera in Tuesday's game. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game they would not retaliate, but apparently nobody was listening to him. In the bottom of the eighth, with the Angels trailing 9-3, Kevin Gregg threw a pitch behind Ian Kinsler's back and drew a warning from home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook. Kinsler then doubled to left and Gregg, undaunted by the warning, then hit Michael Young in the back with a pitch. Gregg was ejected from the game. "[Gregg] said the ball got away from him, but he told me there was no intent," Scioscia said. On Kinsler or with Young? "Both," Scioscia said. Both Scioscia and Gregg were ejected. Brendan Donnelly took over and he immediately drilled Freddy Guzman in the back, then stared into the Rangers dugout while Holbrook threw him out of the game. "I knew I got hit on purpose, but that's just part of the game," Young said. "But once you get to a certain point, all bets are off." Ron Roenicke, the Angels bench coach who had taken over for Scioscia, also was ejected. Major League rules mandate that both pitcher and manager are ejected when an incident occurs after a warning has been given. Feldman took over in the ninth and many on both sides assumed the score had been evened with two hit batters on each side. But Feldman, after retiring the first two hitters, hit Kennedy in the back, roughly the same spot that Young and Guzman were hit. "It's coming down to September and we're all in it, and you've got to take care of your players, especially your offensive players and you can't let pitchers on the other team bully and run," Laird said. Kennedy immediately charged the mound. "You wish it didn't happen that way, but I didn't have a choice," Kennedy said. "I think all the points were made and then they put an exclamation point on it at the end. They left me no choice." Feldman immediately threw off his glove and was ready for him. "I wasn't shocked because of all the hit batters earlier in the game," Feldman said. "If that's what he wanted to do, I wasn't shocked. I looked up and there he was coming. I just tried to defend myself. "Yeah, it looked bad, but I was trying to go inside because of the type of hitter he is and he's diving over the plate." Feldman, Kennedy and Rangers manager Buck Showalter were ejected from the game. Rivera and Angels pitcher John Lackey had to be restrained by teammates and Rivera, who had been thrown at by Eaton a couple of weeks ago in Anaheim, was still yelling at the Rangers after all others had cooled off. "Everybody responds to stimulus and emotion," Showalter said. "It's the way of the game, two teams competing for something we both want. It's not the first time it's happened in baseball. You're talking about young men holding their ground." The Rangers know that at some point this week, after Major League Baseball vice president Bob Watson reviews both the Tuesday and Wednesday incidents, Padilla, Feldman and Showalter are all going to be suspended. "Hopefully it's over," said Mark DeRosa, the Rangers third baseman whose shoulder tackle on Kennedy ended much of the physical melee. "You don't want to see it happen. It's one of those things that has been escalating for a while and it came to a head tonight. Hopefully that's the end of it. But we'll see. We still have to play these guys a couple more times." Actually the two teams play seven more games before the season ends, beginning with a four-game set back here at Ameriquest Field in Arlington on Sept. 14-17.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.