Yordano Ventura’s first pitch to Oakland’s Brett Lawrie during his second plate appearance Saturday against the Royals bounced in the opposite batter’s box. The next pitch was equally misguided but by the unspoken rules of baseball gamesmanship placed precisely where Ventura wanted it.
The 99-mph fastball drilled Lawrie’s side, and Kauffman Stadium erupted in cheers.
Home-plate umpire Jim Joyce immediately ejected Ventura and as that was happening, the dugouts and bullpens emptied but without confrontation.
The ejection was the first of Ventura’s career, and the Lawrie plate appearance occurred after Ventura had served up a three-run homer to Josh Reddick that gave the A’s a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning.
The plunking originated in the seventh inning of Friday’s 6-4 Royals win when Lawrie’s slide into second base, where Alcides Escobar was awaiting a throw, was late, hard and took out the Royals shortstop.
The collision looked worse than it turned out for Escobar, who suffered a knee sprain and bruise but missed his first game since 2013 on Saturday.
Hard feeling persisted. Escobar called it a “dirty play” before Saturday’s game, and even manager Ned Yost, who wasn’t critical of the play after Friday’s game, took a more neutral stance Saturday.
“You can ask five people … who said it wasn’t and five who said it was,” a dirty play, Yost said. “I’m not so sure if had not done a pop-up slide or slide straight into the base that he wouldn’t have been safe.”