Astros versus Rangers Round One: Tempers flare already

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May 1, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder George Springer (4) holds back starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (43) as benches clear during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
May 1, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros center fielder George Springer (4) holds back starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (43) as benches clear during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Benches clear as Astros starter McCullers sends a message to the other Texas baseball team!

That didn’t take long. Game one of the 2017 Silver Boot series was last night, and there were fireworks already. It wasn’t Friday Night fireworks, but instead, a bench clearing brawl. Before we talk about the Astros game, let’s talk about an event leading up to the game. Sunday, Alex Bregman sent a tweet that simply said, “Operation BTSOOTR.” Apparently, the Rangers posted it on the bulletin board and laughed about it.

There has already been some bad blood between Bregman and Roughed Odor going back to the World Baseball Classic. Bregman made a comment that certain players need to act like they have been there before. While Jose Altuve was on Odor’s team at the time, there clearly has been bad blood from the Rangers dominance from last year.

Trouble brewing?

After Lance McCullers had retired the Rangers 1-2-3 in the first inning, Andrew Cashner hit Jose Altuve. Later, Cashner hit Yulieski Gurriel. While Bregman didn’t get hit, you had to figure at some point he would become a target. Bregman is not afraid to stir the pot.

Whether intentional or not, McCullers stirred the pot in the sixth inning. After Mike Napoli had scored the only two Rangers runs, one on a homer, he was up to bat for the third time. McCullers threw a ball behind the right-handed hitter Napoli. These guys are professionals, but they can make mistakes. When a pitch is thrown behind the back like that, it is often not a mistake.

The veteran Napoli knows this, so he starts walking to the mound to let McCullers know how he feels. You know what happens here, the benches empty. Brian McCann and the home plate umpire try to calm Napoli down, but then McCann explodes with something said. There is some slight shoving, Carlos Gomez runs in ready to rumble with his old teammates.

No one is ejected from the game, but the umpire issued a warning to both benches. The play of the mini-squabble was Springer and Ken Giles running in to keep McCullers away from everything. McCullers is far too valuable for when/if suspensions are handed out. After striking out Napoli, McCullers walked into the dugout mimicking James Harden’s cooking motion.

Times a changing.

McCullers knew that he had stirred the pot, this was Houston’s way of exercising their demons. After going 4-15 versus the Rangers, things needed to change for the Astros. If it weren’t for how well the Rangers played the Astros, things could have looked different in 2016. On Talking Stros last Sunday, someone asked what needed to be done to beat the Rangers? They added the veteran talent. Now they added the fire.

Both sides appeared to settle down to play baseball. However, it seemed like the incident was used as motivation for the Astros to score five runs in the seventh inning. Jamey Newberg of the Newberg Report had to say this about the Astros.

"“They’re a very good baseball team, and they’re pathetic. Doesn’t appear that changes, even with the veteran infusion.” – Jamey Mewberg."

Next: Dallas Keuchel And The Tale Of Two April's

Not sure what team he was watching, McCullers was not only defending the honor of the team but standing up for his hitters. Maybe the team will follow Bregman and McCullers’ lead and bring the same fire for the rest of the 18 remaining games versus the Rangers. The playoffs go through Texas.

***Stats from MLB.com and standings from Baseball-Reference***

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