A sleepy end-of-game between the Yankees and Blue Jays became a bloody mess last night as an eighth-inning brawl featuring Jorge Posada and Toronto pitcher Jesse Carlson turned the area between home plate and the first-base dugout into a giant mosh pit.
After it was over, Carlson was bleeding from a cut on his forehead and Yankees manager Joe Girardi had scrapes on his left ear. Carlson and Posada were ejected - suspensions likely to follow - and the Blue Jays went on to a 10-4 win without further incident at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees, with a lot to play for this month and next, were lucky no one was seriously injured. "We've already had a discussion," Girardi said. "I told them, 'There's a lot at stake here and we can't afford to get anyone hurt or lose anyone or get people suspended.'
"You're just hoping and praying, 'Stop this. Stop. Stop. Break it up.' That is not what we want. And this is not what they want. Unfortunately, it's what we got."
The melee began after Posada scored on a double by Brett Gardner and made contact with Carlson after crossing the plate. The lefty threw behind Posada earlier in the inning, missing him, in apparent retaliation for two Blue Jays hit by pitches earlier.
On Gardner's hit, Carlson was absent-mindedly backing up home plate; instead of sprinting to get behind the catcher, he was sauntering in the general direction of nowhere in particular. Carlson was near the first-base side of the plate when Posada brushed him as he went by.
"I was kind of looking up and when he came by he threw a shoulder into my shoulder," Carlson said.
Asked what happened, Posada said: "Nothing, really. He was just right there on the line to go to the dugout. To tell the truth, I want to leave it at that."
Carlson turned to yell at Posada, who was immediately ejected by plate umpire Jim Joyce.
But it didn't end there.
The benches and bullpens emptied for the second time in the inning - after Carlson's pitched had sailed behind Posada, players convened around home plate. Words were spoken but no punches were thrown.
This time, even bit players got into the act. Big-bodied Shelley Duncan of the Yankees jumped into the fray. The Jays' John McDonald appeared to scratch Girardi's ear with his left hand, although McDonald denied it was him, video evidence to the contrary.
Eventually, Posada was led into the dugout by CC Sabathia. The ejections were announced and the game continued with a new Blue Jays pitcher after an approximately 15-minute delay.
If Carlson intentionally threw behind Posada - he denied it - it must have been in retaliation. Sergio Mitre plunked Edwin Encarnacion in the sixth and Mark Melancon hit Aaron Hill in the eighth.Encarnacion and Adam Lind had hit home runs, two of the Jays' five. Four were off Mitre (3-3, 7.63), who allowed seven runs in five-plus innings. Travis Snider went deep twice against him.
But the Yankees will worry about their fifth-starter troubles later. For now, they hope no key player shows up for tonight's game with a bump or bruise that grew into something more overnight. And they will wait to hear about suspensions, even if Posada doesn't think he deserves one.
"I hope not," he said. "I didn't start anything."