Astros Have the Final Say, and Not Just in a Shouting Match


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Carlos Gomez after hitting a three-run homer that followed an on-field tiff between the teams.

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Al Bello/Getty Images

With the Astros trouncing the Yankees, Carlos Gomez — Houston’s lightning rod of an outfielder — slammed his bat down after a sixth-inning at-bat, mad at himself for missing the pitch he was sitting on and for hitting a harmless fly ball to center.

Was Gomez displaying fierce competitiveness? Or was he egging the Yankees on with an over-the-top gesture?

That dividing line seemed to be a matter of which dugout the players and coaches were sitting in on Tuesday night, when Gomez brought a little theater to an otherwise forgettable night for the Yankees that ended in a 15-1 rout.

Gomez flipped his bat as he took off on a first-inning double, and in the sixth inning, when he ran down the first-base line muttering to himself, someone in the Yankees’ dugout said something that got his attention.

The two sides had words, including an exchange between Gomez and Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, and soon players from both dugouts spilled onto the field. Others came streaming in from the bullpens in center field.

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Larry Rothschild, right, the Yankees’ pitching coach, talking to Ivan Nova in the first inning against the Astros on Tuesday. Nova allowed five runs in the inning.

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Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The crowd dispersed quietly and uneventfully, and Gomez got the last word with a three-run homer in his next at-bat, in the seventh, which finished the scoring.

“Somebody’s screaming from the dugout, and I tell them, Why are you screaming?” Gomez said. “Everybody knows in the league how passionate I play the game. It’s not meant to disrespect anybody.”

The Yankees, like others before them, may have been annoyed by Gomez’s histrionics. But they were also surely frustrated by the pounding the Astros were meting out and by the way their offense was shackled once again, this time by the All-Star left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who has held them scoreless for 16 innings this season.

Gomez answered the calls from the Yankees’ dugout by saying, “Shut up,” several times. He then had words with Yankees catcher John Ryan Murphy and returned to the dugout.

“I just told him, Play the game the right way,” said Girardi, whose team trailed by 9-0 at the time of the confrontation. “They’re kicking our rear ends. Show a little professionalism to the pitcher. I know you missed a pitch and are frustrated by it, but I just think it’s a little too much.”

It was unclear who originally confronted Gomez, but he and Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who was given the night off and was in the dugout, have a history.

Two years ago, Gomez, then a Milwaukee Brewer, and McCann, then with the Atlanta Braves, had a well-publicized confrontation after Gomez homered off Pat Maholm, who had hit him earlier. Gomez angrily ran the bases, shouting at Maholm and first baseman Freddie Freeman, and McCann stood in his path as he crossed home plate.

That confrontation led to a brawl for which Gomez was suspended.

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Brendan Ryan, a utility infielder, pitched two scoreless innings for the Yankees late in the game.

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Al Bello/Getty Images

“We don’t have no history,” Gomez said of McCann. “He’s my friend. Why do you bring that up? What are you talking about McCann? He’s my friend. You don’t bring something in the past and put it now. Everybody knows what happens in Atlanta, but it’s nothing like that.”

McCann was not in the clubhouse afterward when it was opened to reporters.

Gomez said he was frustrated because he had not hit well since the Astros acquired him from the Brewers late last month, after he nearly went to the Mets in a deal that was squashed.

He had belted a double to left field in the first inning, during which the Astros bolted to a 5-0 lead against Ivan Nova. But he flied out in his next at-bat and then grounded out.

“How are you supposed to feel when you start the game like a tiger and then you’re a little cat?” Gomez said.

Gomez said he did not understand, nor did he care, why other players and coaches were bothered by the way he played — that he competes every at-bat, every inning, no matter what the score is.

Some Yankees found that explanation insufficient.

“Yeah, everybody knows he plays the game hard,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of different ways to play the game hard, and we respect him as a baseball player, but in a 9-0 game, you pop out to center field, take your stuff and go back to the dugout.”

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The game had gotten so far out of hand by the time of Gomez’s seventh-inning blast that the Yankees later called on Brendan Ryan, a utility infielder, to pitch. The gregarious Ryan had been lobbying to pitch or catch if the Yankees were in an emergency, and he ended up being their most effective pitcher Tuesday, throwing two scoreless innings and giving up only two hits.

Gomez’s histrionics and Ryan’s relief stint livened up an otherwise dreary game.

The way the Yankees have hit Keuchel this season — finding crumbs in his thick beard might be easier than finding a way to score off him — the game was over about the time it began.

Jacoby Ellsbury misplayed a potential third out in the first inning, giving Colby Rasmus a triple. Nova went on to surrender more runs in that inning alone (five) than he had in any of his 10 starts since returning in June from Tommy John surgery, and he left after Evan Gattis slammed a two-run homer with nobody out in the fifth.

But Nova and Ellsbury were not the only ones to endure a miserable evening. Nick Rumbelow, who relieved Nova, allowed a home run to Marwin Gonzalez and nearly allowed another to Jason Castro. And Ryan, one of the best defensive infielders in baseball, let a ball go through his legs even as he was down on a knee at second base.

Chris Capuano, who allowed Gomez’s home run in a six-run seventh, was visited by the trainer Steve Donohue during the inning but continued to pitch.

The game featured the return of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had been out for eight days after fouling a ball off his right shin. But the way Teixeira moved — walking with a slight limp during batting practice and not running hard on a ground ball deep in the shortstop hole — it was easy to wonder if he was returning too soon.

Teixeira, who was lifted after six innings, said afterward that he was not concerned about aggravating the injury.

“If this is a muscle pull, I’m not playing today,” he said, perhaps wishing that he had not.

INSIDE PITCH

After seeing a doctor Tuesday, C. C. SABATHIA said that there was no further damage to his right knee and that he was hopeful he could return after his stint on the 15-day disabled list. JOE GIRARDI said Sabathia might tinker with a new knee brace, but he was noncommittal about what Sabathia’s role would be. Sabathia has never pitched in relief. “The first thing you do is get him healthy, and then you try to make a decision,” Girardi said. “If he doesn’t get healthy, it doesn’t really matter what we’re talking about.”



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