Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly was handed an eight-game suspension by Major League Baseball for his role in the benches-clearing incident that occurred at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Tuesday night. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was issued a one-game suspension and Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker was fined an undisclosed amount, MLB announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Kelly, who threw a fastball behind Alex Bregman‘s head and later taunted Carlos Correa on the way back to the dugout, will appeal his suspension, making him available for the series finale. Roberts will serve his suspension immediately, prompting bench coach Bob Geren to act as Wednesday’s interim manager.
Under the 60-game format, an eight-game suspension accounts for more than 13% of the schedule. MLB referenced a prior suspension for “intentional throwing” in deciphering punishment for Kelly, who was docked six games for plunking and then fighting with Tyler Austin of the New York Yankees in April of 2018.
Kelly denied intent after the Dodgers’ 5-2 win, saying: “My accuracy isn’t the best.” After his 3-0, 96-mph fastball sailed behind Bregman, Kelly also threw four pitches high to Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel and later brushed Correa back with a couple of inside curveballs. After striking Correa out, Kelly made a pouty face at the Astros’ star shortstop as he walked off the field. Baker claimed Kelly also yelled: “Nice swing, b****.”
Speaking Wednesday, Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. had no doubts about Kelly’s intent.
“Joe Kelly threw a ball behind Bregman’s head on 3-0 on purpose,” McCullers said. “Not only did he take it upon himself to send a message, but he wasn’t even part of the team during that  season. We knew coming into the game that he likes to go off script. It is what it is. It was done unprofessionally. What he did after he punched out Correa was unprofessional. Running into the dugout was unprofessional. So it is what it is. We’re here to play baseball. We just wanna win. That’s it.”
The Dodgers expressed a lot of public anger after an investigation by MLB confirmed reports that the Astros utilized an elaborate sign-stealing method that included banging on a trash can to notify hitters of upcoming pitches during home games, a practice that extended into the postseason. Kelly wasn’t on the Dodgers team that lost to the Astros in seven World Series games that fall, but he was on a Boston Red Sox team that was eliminated by the Astros in the first round of the 2017 playoffs and then beat them in the 2018 American League Championship Series.
Ross Stripling, who acknowledged during spring training that he would consider throwing at Astros hitters if given the chance, said Kelly’s facial expressions were “one of the funnier things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field” and that the Dodgers were “all excited because we’ll have shirts to wear for BP.” (T-shirts have already been printed by a Dodgers fan group.)
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a talk with league officials on Wednesday morning and reported they “weren’t pleased” that players congregated on the field so closely and didn’t abide by social-distancing protocols given concerns of another COVID-19 outbreak. Roberts vowed to speak to his players briefly before Wednesday’s game to remind them that they need to remain in the dugout. He believes Tuesday’s incident “released” some lingering tension.
“This is something that has been built up over the course of seven months,” Roberts said. “I think it was unfortunate, but to spin it, I think it’s a good thing that we got it out of the way, nobody got hurt, and we can move on and play baseball.”