Mariners, Astros clear benches — again — with Caballero in middle

Aug 19, 2023, 7:40 PM | Updated: Aug 20, 2023, 9:36 pm

The Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros cleared the benches, and José Caballero was in the middle of it.

No, you’re not reading an article from earlier this season. It really did happen again.

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The pesky antics of Caballero, a Mariners rookie, drew the ire of Astros catcher Martín Maldonado when the two teams met in Seattle on May 7, resulting in both teams clearing their benches and sorting things out – luckily with no punches thrown. And the same thing happened in the fifth inning Saturday in Houston, although the reason was a little different this time.

Caballero came up to hit right after Dylan Moore hit a two-run home run off of Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez, and the first pitch he saw was a fastball that drilled him in the side. As you might expect, Caballero had some words for Valdez about that, and Valdez had some words in return.

Once again, no punches will thrown, and Caballero and Valdez stayed in the game, which the Mariners won 10-3.

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The highlight of the brief stop in play may have been Mariners star Julio Rodríguez giving Valdez, a fellow native of the Dominican Republic, an extended hug to talk him down from the tense moment.

This is where it gets even more entertaining for Mariners fans. When play resumed, Caballero immediately took off to attempt a steal of second base. Valdez actually saw it coming and tried a pickoff, but Caballero just kept going for second and slid in ahead of the tag for the steal. Even better, Caballero tried to steal third, too, though a foul ball spoiled that.

The “Professional Nuisance” strikes again.

After the game, Valdez spoke about the incident.

“Caballero reacted a little bit crazy there,” Valdez said, according to The Associated Press. “It was a bad pitch, I hit him by mistake, it wasn’t intentional. Obviously, hit by pitches happen in a game. He reacted a little bit aggressively, so I reacted as well. It’s part of the game.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais shared his take, as well.

“Framber was frustrated is what I saw. Players handle it differently. He was frustrated,” Servais said.

The AP article recapping the game said that Caballero was not made available to reporters in the clubhouse.

The Astros clearly don’t appreciate Caballero’s style of play. The rookie infielder has become known for waiting as long as possible to get ready in the batter’s box, using the pitch clock rules to his advantage (hitters must be ready with eight seconds left on the clock). He’s also been a pest on the bases (23 stolen bases) and will take long walks back to the plate after foul balls. In other words, he’s a fast-working pitcher’s nightmare.

Saturday actually marked the third time the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros have cleared the benches since last year. There was yet another instance in Houston in June 2022, and like the two this year, things never got physical between the bitter American League West rivals even though tensions ran high.

It’s possible the Astros are hearing footsteps, as the Mariners are inching closer and closer to Houston in the wild card standings.

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