To the Astros, Carlos Gomez's bat flip and ensuing shouts were representative of how passionately he plays the game. To the Yankees, he crossed the line.
With the Astros leading by nine in the top of the sixth in their 15-1 win over the Yankees on Tuesday night, Gomez skied a fly out to centerfield. After thrusting his bat to the ground and jogging to first base, he abruptly turned his head toward the Yankees dugout, as if he had heard something he didn't like.
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Gomez joked about it afterward: "He invited me to dinner."
"I don't know. Just I say, 'let's go after the game.' "
On his way back to the Astros' dugout, Gomez crossed the infield grass, and television cameras caught him yelling "shut up" three times toward the Yankees' side.
As he passed John Ryan Murphy at home plate, the Yankees catcher had some words for Gomez that further upset him. Plate umpire Eric Cooper and Astros on-deck hitter Luis Valbuena held Gomez back before both dugouts and bullpens cleared.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said: "I think some guys took exception to the way he flipped the bat and started yelling . . . We're getting beat 9-0 . . . I just told him to play the game right. They're kicking our rear ends, just show a little professionalism to the pitcher."
Added Murphy: "I just think there was no room for that in a 9-0 game. There's never any time for that but I think especially in a 9-0 game, anything of that nature is uncalled for . . . That's the way he plays, he's an energetic guy, everybody knows that, we respect him as a baseball player, it's just there's a right and a wrong way to play the game."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch downplayed the incident, calling it a "little dustup" and "a little bit of a conversation," and said it was merely an example of Gomez's passion.
"It comes from a good place," Hinch said. "He's an emotional player, and continues to compete."
In the seventh, Gomez crushed the second pitch he saw from Chris Capuano to deep centerfield for a three-run homer. Crossing second, he emphatically clapped on his helmet. Then again after rounding third.
"Only thing I know," Gomez said, "is every time I step on the field, I give everything I have. If you misunderstand the way I play the game, it's your fault."
Gomez began his antics in the first inning. After drilling a liner to leftfield, Gomez flipped his bat and froze his swing -- a taunt of sorts -- before turning on the jets to leg out a double.
"It's competition and everyone is passionate," Gomez said. "Go to the '80s, how they played the game. And everybody loved the game. I play the game like I'm supposed to. I run hard every day. I come here, smiling, play my game hard and respect everybody."
In September 2013, when Gomez was a member of the Brewers, he ignited a brawl after excessive chest-pounding during a home-run trot against Atlanta. Brian McCann, who was in the Yankees' dugout during Tuesday night's fireworks, was at the center of it. He took exception to Gomez's jeering, and blocked him when he came to touch home plate.
Gomez, who was suspended for the incident, was apologetic afterward.
After Tuesday night's game, he said there's nothing between him and McCann.
"We don't have no history. He's my friend," Gomez said with a smile. "It's in the past. Everybody knows what happened in Atlanta, but it's nothing about that.
"If they feel like I disrespect them when I throw my bat from frustration, then they take it the wrong way. Because I don't mean to do that. I'm a passionate guy . . . Everybody knows that the last 2 1/2 weeks, I've been having a tough time at the plate. Today, I start the game hard and then two at-bats later, I come back to ground ball and fly ball to centerfield. How are you supposed to feel? You start the game like a tiger, and in the middle, you're like a little cat."