DETROIT -- Not since Dean Palmer charged the mound on Jim Parque in Chicago in 2000 had the Tigers and White Sox cleared the benches quite like this. Tempers flared between the two sides in Chicago's 6-3 win on Thursday at Comerica Park when White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez charged the mound toward Luke Putkonen, who threw a pitch behind Ramirez in the sixth inning.
No punches were thrown, and Ramirez was held back from Putkonen. Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera stepped in between the two along with catcher Brayan Pena and White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing while both dugouts and bullpens emptied.
"It's just baseball, guys," Pena said. "It's going to happen."
Putkonen and manager Jim Leyland were both ejected, but Ramirez was not, prompting a lengthy argument from Leyland toward home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild and crew chief Jeff Kellogg.
"That information will be in the report," Fairchild told a pool reporter about the crux of Leyland's argument.
Leyland did not speak with the media after the game. It's believed to be the first time in his tenure with the Tigers that he has not had any sort of postgame news conference.
The game began simmering an inning earlier, when Chris Sale threw up-and-in to Prince Fielder one pitch after Cabrera's 30th home run of the year. No warnings were issued, and Sale regrouped to strike out Fielder and end the inning.
Sale insisted he was not purposely throwing at Fielder.
"There's a time and place for that, and this wasn't the time or the place," said Sale, who grew up near the Tigers' Spring Training home in Lakeland, Fla. "I'm not even trying to send a message. I'm trying to back him off the plate, honestly.
"I got a lot of respect for Prince, the Detroit Tigers and the game of baseball. Going out there and doing something childish like that, that's not who I am. That's not what I do. It was one of those [pitches] that kind of got away and unfortunately turned into something."
Fielder declined to comment after the game. Nothing about his reaction after the pitch suggested any tempers flaring.
"There was no reaction from Fielder. He said nothing," Fairchild said. "There was no reaction from anyone else. The only reaction I saw was from Sale, who made a motion like, 'It got away.'"
Putkonen replaced starter Anibal Sanchez with one out in the sixth following White Sox rookie Josh Phegley's go-ahead grand slam. Putkonen retired Alejandro De Aza for the second out. His first pitch to Ramirez went behind his back.
"I was just trying to throw an inside fastball and it got away from me," Putkonen said. "I wasn't trying to hit anybody."
Ramirez started walking toward the mound and shouting at Putkonen, who stepped off the mound but didn't charge.
"I reacted like any other player would have," Ramirez told reporters through a translator. "That wasn't a pitch that was intended to go in the zone. That pitch was intended to hurt me. If you are hurting me, you are hurting my family. You are hurting my kids. That's something I have to react to."
By rule, no warnings have to be issued for a pitcher to be ejected if umpires rule a pitcher threw inside on purpose.
"He threw behind him and I deemed it intentional," Fairchild said.
Putkonen initially didn't realize he had been ejected -- he was standing on the mound waiting for the situation to calm down. But Fairchild told him he was gone.
Part of Leyland's frustration could have stemmed from a game last week in Toronto, when Blue Jays reliever Todd Redmond hit Torii Hunter in the shoulder after Colby Rasmus' slide injured Omar Infante a couple innings earlier. Benches cleared, and there were warnings, but no ejections.
"After the Toronto thing, it's like everybody is able to do whatever they want to us," said Phil Coke, who replaced Putkonen, "but if something is to go the other way, everybody gets all upset instead of the game playing itself out. Everybody wants to get in the middle of it instead of letting it play itself out. If he gets hit right there, OK, so what, it's over. There's no reason to toss anybody. Issue the warnings, then everybody is good."
Most of the players were just waiting for the situation to calm down. Cabrera was pointing at Ramirez as Pena and McEwing held him back, but Pena said he was trying to calm him down. Fielder half-jokingly gave White Sox DH Adam Dunn a bear hug, pretending to hold back the burly slugger.
Once Leyland became animated, Pena said, he pretty much became the center of attention.
"Oh, the skipper took over, man," Pena said. "It was, what, 50 guys out there, and the skipper, he was running the show. He looked like he was 35 years old, man. That was pretty good, so now I know that I can't mess with him."
Leyland argued at length with Fairchild and Kellogg, went back to the dugout, then charged back out to pick up his argument once he saw Ramirez was still in the game.
"Both teams kind of watched like, 'Is this guy going off or what?' I really appreciate that though," Hunter said.
It was the first ejection of the season and 69th career ejection for Leyland, who was replaced by bench coach Gene Lamont.
Ramirez singled a few pitches later off Al Alburquerque. He pulled up around first base with a leg cramp and had to leave the game.