The pitch didn't appear to be inside, but it was eye-level, and Sexson, who stands 6-foot-8, took exception. He charged the mound, threw his helmet at Gabbard and then tangled with him. Catcher Gerald Laird was right behind Sexson and was able to tackle him and pull him off Gabbard.
In the aftermath, Major League vice-president Bob Watson suspended Sexson for six games while fining Laird, Rangers pitcher Sidney Ponson and Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez. All three had to be physically restrained from escalating the confrontation while order was being restored.
"Honestly, I'm surprised," said Laird, who was fined $1,000. "I was just trying to help my pitcher. There weren't any punches thrown. Obviously, words were exchanged. I didn't expect that, but I'll deal with it."
Ponson wasn't happy that he was singled out amid the crowd that gathered at the mound.
"I didn't do nothing," Ponson said. "Felix said he was going to whip my [rear] and the umpire was in front of me. I didn't move, I just smiled. That's it, and I'm getting fined. I think that's being ridiculous."
Sexson's six-game suspension would keep him from playing in the Mariners' three-game series that will start on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, but he is appealing the punishment. He will be allowed to play until a hearing is held. Watson called Sexson's actions, "violent and aggressive."
"I'm sure he's getting it on the helmet toss," Laird said. "He knows he screwed up, and [he] has to deal with the consequences."
Gabbard was not punished by Watson, but is still dealing with physical issues from the altercation. His main problem was bruised knees from getting swarmed over by a pile of players. His back, which had put him on the disabled list for a couple of weeks, was seemingly unaffected.
"I'm a little roughed up today," Gabbard said. "I had a bunch of guys on top of me; I don't know what happened after that. My first day off the disabled list, that's not the way I wanted to go."
Gabbard's next start is scheduled to come against the Mariners on Tuesday at the Ballpark. The Rangers are not expecting any fallout from the feud to boil over.
"It's part of baseball," shortstop Michael Young said. "It's not the first time that's happened and it won't be the last time. Usually when the benches clear, you go back to square one. Richie thought the ball was at his head and he did what he had to do. In my mind it's over and we play baseball."