Major League Baseball has handed L.A. Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly an eight-game suspension for his role in a benches-clearing altercation with the Houston Astros Tuesday night.
The league also issued Dodgers manager Dave Roberts a one-game suspension and fined Astros first-year manager Dusty Baker an undisclosed amount.
Tuesday night’s game at Minute Maid Park was the first time the two teams have met since the off-season investigation into Houston’s sign-stealing scandal in 2017. The Astros defeated the Dodgers in the World Series that same year.
Joe Kelly, who wasn’t even a part of the Dodgers’ World Series team, threw a 97 mph fastball behind Alex Bregman’s head on a 3-0 count. Kelly then three four pitchers high to Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel.
Tempers erupted after Kelly brushed back shortstop Carlos Correa on an inside curve. After striking Correa out, Kelly mocked him, leading to a benches-clearing confrontation. Kelly denied that his actions were premeditated or intentional, claiming his “accuracy isn’t the best.”
Kelly’s suspension of eight games in a truncated 60-game season is equivalent to a 22-game suspension (13%) of a regular 162-game campaign.
Kelly had previously been suspended for six games after he beaned and fought the Yankees’ Tyler Austin in 2018. The MLB said it referenced that incident to determine Tuesday’s punishment.
Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. on Wednesday said he had little doubt about Kelly’s intent. In fact, he claims the Dodgers’ starter purposefully threw “out of control.”
“Joe Kelly threw a ball behind Bregman’s head on 3-0 on purpose. 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,” McCullers said.
“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 want to win. That’s it.”
After MLB handed Kelly his eight-game suspension, current and former major league players sounded off on Twitter. For the most part, players and fans are displeased and baffled by MLB’s decision to suspend Kelly.
Marcus Stroman (SP – Rangers): “He wasn’t even thrown out of the game. MLB siding with/protecting a team that openly and knowingly cheated their way to a World Series. He doesn’t deserve to be suspended at all.”
Jered Weaver (SP – Padres): “Eight games! What a joke. MLB is so soft. It’s kinda embarrassing. People should just keep cheating because apparently there is zero game suspensions for that.”
Cody Decker (Former Padres Infielder): “Joe Kelly, who wasn’t ejected from last nights game, just received a far harsher punishment than the Astros did for cheating for 3 years. Amazing.”
In addition, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that Tuesday’s skirmish “released” some lingering tension.
“This is something that has been built up over the course of seven months. 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,” Roberts said.