DETROIT -- Four years after Mike Sweeney tackled Jeff Weaver on the mound at Kauffman Stadium, the Tigers and Royals switched places.
What had been a relatively quiet getaway game at Comerica Park turned into a bench-clearing melee.
Royals pitcher Runelvys Hernandez and Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen were among seven ejections after a hit-by-pitch escalated into a dogpile along the first-base line.
Three players had already been hit by pitches, two of them by Hernandez, when a 1-0 pitch from
the Kansas City right-hander hit Guillen in the head leading off the bottom of the sixth inning. Guillen thought he had been hit by the previous pitch in the foot, prompting him to toss his bat and stroll towards first before home plate umpire Marty Foster called him back. Hernandez's ensuing fastball struck Guillen in the side of the helmet near his temple.
Hernandez also hit two of the first three batters he faced in the first inning, Brandon Inge and Chris Shelton, but neither player thought they were hit intentionally. Foster issued a warning after Mike Maroth hit David DeJesus near his right knee on a 2-2 pitch with two outs in the second inning.
Both Hernandez and his teammates insisted the last blow wasn't on purpose, either.
"I didn't try to hit anybody," Hernandez said. "I feel sorry about [Guillen], but I
didn't try to hit him on purpose. ... A lot of pitchers hit guys in the head. I don't do that. I'm not that kind of a pitcher. I always throw inside."
Though not every Tiger was certain either way, most of them said that wasn't the point. Beyond that, they said Hernandez's angry exchange with Guillen was an indictment.
"He's got better control than that. I know he does," Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman said. "He showed it the whole rest of the game. If you want to throw at somebody's head, you can kill somebody or end his career. I think it's totally wrong."
Said catcher Vance Wilson: "You don't miss like that on a lefty. He's not a power guy. It's bush league, and the guy showed his act out there. He can deny it all he wants. He didn't miss like that on anyone else."
Guillen stood up quickly and began shouting at Hernandez as they began walking towards each other and trading words. Royals pitcher and former Tiger Jose Lima soon came out of the dugout to hold back Guillen as he suddenly tried to charge at Hernandez again from first base.
Until then, umpiring crew chief Dana DeMuth said, Guillen had not been ejected. "Guillen and Hernandez had words again," DeMuth said, "and that's what started the whole thing again."
Though both benches and bullpens had cleared, the scrum seemed to have subsided until the second scuffle, after which chaos ensued. Tigers closer Kyle Farnsworth escaped bullpen coach Lance Parrish's block and used his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame to pick up Royals reliever Jeremy Affeldt, carry him several feet and tackle him to the ground near the Royals dugout.
"That's the reason why you don't talk [trash] during a pileup," Dmitri Young said. "[Affeldt] opened his mouth."
Affeldt denied that. "It was nothing that I said," he said. "He [Farnsworth] must've felt like we were going at it."
Farnsworth declined to comment on the fracas.
Soon after that, punches were traded among a larger pack of players, which quickly turned into a dogpile along the first-base line that took several minutes to clear.
"That's how it goes," Brandon Inge said. "As ugly as it may seem, you just make sure no one's jumping in on your teammates to hurt them or damage them."
Jeremy Bonderman / P
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Bonderman was particularly heated, escaping the grasp of both Dmitri Young and third base coach Juan Samuel at different points to charge towards Hernandez. "I never swung at anybody, to be honest with you," Bonderman said. "I was going after their starting pitcher. That's bull."
Hernandez -- who had a two-hit shutout going at the time -- was ejected along with Emil Brown, Alberto Castillo and manager Buddy Bell for the Royals. Guillen, Bonderman and Farnsworth were ejected for the Tigers.
Not until after the fracas could Tigers staff gauge the damage to Guillen, who felt fine initially but later complained of dizziness and nausea. Fearing a concussion, he was sent to Henry Ford Hospital, where X-rays and a CAT scan were negative according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. He was expected to accompany the Tigers on their Sunday evening flight to Chicago.
All the other injuries, Rand said, were minor.
Though they weren't involved in the original incident, Brown, Castillo and Bonderman were tossed for "being aggressive," in DeMuth's words. Though the umpires conferred with their individual views and came up with the ejections, DeMuth didn't want to point out specifics until his crew had a chance to watch replays.
"There was probably about 10 bodies in the pile," DeMuth said. "All you could see at that point was [backsides] and cleats."
Ironically, the last altercation for both teams also took place against each other on Aug. 10, 2001, when Mike Sweeney tackled Jeff Weaver on the mound at Kauffman Stadium. Sweeney and two coaches were ejected from that one. A year earlier, the Tigers and White Sox had an infamous scuffle in 2000 at Chicago that led to 16 suspensions and fines.
The one Tiger who has been around for all of those is Samuel. "This wasn't even close," Samuel said in comparison.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.