All common sense lost in Red Sox-Orioles drama

BOSTON -- Don't try to make sense of why Baltimore Orioles starter Kevin Gausman got ejected for hitting a batter with a 77 mph curveball Wednesday night, one game after Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale was allowed to keep pitching after whipping a 98 mph fastball behind a batter's knees.

Nothing about this childish beanball feud between the Red Sox and Orioles makes any sense.

If right-thinking people had applied reason and logic to this situation, well, let's just say it would have ended days ago. Instead, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred felt the need to intervene, arranging a conference call Wednesday with the managers and top executives from both teams to deliver a stern message: Enough is enough.

After the past two weeks, Manfred didn't trust the sides to reach that conclusion on their own. And after seeing the Red Sox try and fail five times to hit Orioles star Manny Machado in retaliation for his spikes-high slide into second baseman Dustin Pedroia on April 21, Manfred and chief baseball officer Joe Torre stepped forward to act like a grade-school principal dealing with two misbehaving students.

Manfred didn't issue a formal warning to the teams, Red Sox manager John Farrell said. But he did put the umpires on "high alert with anything," according to crew chief Sam Holbrook, who was behind the plate Wednesday night. And so, when Gausman plunked Xander Bogaerts on the left thigh with a first-pitch breaking ball to open the bottom of the second inning, Holbrook only did what he was instructed to do.

"I know that the ball was a curveball, but it hit him square in the back and just making a split decision at that point right there, there needs to be an end to this stuff, and I felt like an ejection was the right thing to do at that time and that's what we did," Holbrook told a pool reporter after the Red Sox's 4-2 victory at Fenway Park. "Thankfully, we didn't have any more problems the rest of the game."

Of course, that's little consolation to the Orioles. Incensed catcher Caleb Joseph, who screamed at Holbrook after the ejection, labeled it "a bunch of malarkey." Gausman called it "complete bush league." And Orioles manager Buck Showalter lamented having to burn long reliever Richard Bleier and Thursday night's scheduled starter Ubaldo Jimenez to cover the final seven innings, usage that probably will necessitate at least one roster move.

"To throw me out in that situation after what Sale did [Tuesday night] -- throwing 98 behind a guy, on purpose, everybody knew it -- and you're going to throw me out for hitting a guy on a curveball, 0-0 [count] in the second inning?" Gausman told reporters outside the Orioles' clubhouse. "I mean, it's pretty bush league. For some reason, those guys can get away with throwing 98 behind a guy's leg, who he's had two surgeries on, and I throw a curveball and he tosses me."

Said Showalter: "Sam's a good umpire, just trying to do what he thinks is right. We know the sincerity of the intent. Obviously [Gausman's] not trying to hit anybody. You've got a 77 mph pitch compared to [98] last night. You figure it out. ... It's frustrating. You keep trying to do the right thing and take the high ground. It's hard to keep turning the other cheek, but you're trying to. It's unfortunate that those decisions come."

But that's what happens when teams can't call their own truce. And both are to blame. The saga might have ended if Orioles starter Dylan Bundy hadn't hit Red Sox star Mookie Betts in the thigh Monday night, or if Sale hadn't gone after Machado on Tuesday night, or if Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi hadn't had to duck out of the way of a pitch from Orioles reliever Donnie Hart a few innings later.

And on, and on, and on.

Farrell said he had never seen MLB get involved in a peace accord between teams during his seven years as a manager, but acknowledged that player safety had become an issue over the past four Red Sox-Orioles games. And after Machado's expletive-filled rant Tuesday night -- he crammed 12 F-bombs into about 90 seconds and threatened to "crush" offending pitchers with his bat -- it's little wonder that Manfred had seen and heard enough.

"Major League Baseball would like to see the focus on the game on the field and the rivalry that's developed between the Orioles and the Red Sox," Orioles general manager Dan Duquette told reporters before the game. "It's been very spirited and some of the on-field behaviors Major League Baseball is discouraging so that we can keep the focus on the best players and keep the best players on the field."

Even if it meant kicking a pitcher off of it for something as benign as a first-pitch curveball that bent the wrong way. Gausman and the Orioles deserve to feel wronged, but maybe now everyone can finally move on.

"I am the most excited person to get the hell out of Boston," Joseph said. "I mean, let's get on with it and get out of here. We're so ready for this thing to be over. We're so ready."

At last, something that makes sense.