That all changed Wednesday night. The rivalry is back on.
At Fenway Park, benches cleared and punches were thrown after Red Sox righty Joe Kelly threw at Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin. He actually threw at him twice -- the first pitch missed and Kelly wanted to make sure he got him, so he threw at him again. Austin charged the mound and hell broke loose. Both players landed punches.
Here is the brawl:
The bad blood started earlier in the game, when Austin slid into second base to break up a double play and spiked Brock Holt in the calf. Holt and Austin had words after the slide, and once Kelly got into the game, he decided to retaliate. The spiking didn't appear to be intentional, but still, Austin went in spikes high, and that's a no-no.
Here's video of Austin's slide:
Following the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said there was "nothing remotely dirty" about the slide, and added he had "no issue" with Austin charging the mound.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora felt otherwise. "He overslid it and his spikes were up," he said.
Judge and Stanton handed that extremely well, I thought. Stanton went straight to getting Christian Vazquez out of the way while Judge basically dragged Joe Kelly away from the rest of the Yankees. Bad fight could have been much worse.— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) April 12, 2018
Last season was the first time the Yankees and Red Sox were both in contention since 2009, but the Yankees were a surprise contender during their 2017 rebuild year, and the rivalry didn't heat up. This season, the two clubs are widely expected to compete for the AL East title, so the head-to-head games are more meaningful, and inevitably tempers will flare.
While MLB wouldn't outright condone violence, the league offices and various television networks are probably thrilled with the Yankees-Red Sox brawl and the potential for more fireworks this summer. It'll be a ratings bonanza. Like or not, the Yankees and Red Sox contending at the same time is a good thing for baseball. It's even better when they're at each other's throats.
Kelly, Austin, Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle, and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin were all ejected. Kelly and Austin will face discipline from MLB, undoubtedly. .