Benches clear in Rangers-Astros game

McCullers Jr. throws pitch behind Napoli, who earlier homered

Benches clear in Rangers-Astros game

HOUSTON -- The Rangers were still seething in the clubhouse after their sixth-inning altercation with the Astros on Monday night.

The Astros tried to make light of the situation, but the Rangers weren't in the mood for levity after a 6-2 loss at Minute Maid Park.

The Rangers were unhappy that Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. threw behind Mike Napoli with two outs and nobody on in the sixth. The pitch was perceived as payback for Rangers pitcher Andrew Cashner hitting Jose Altuve in the first and Yuli Gurriel in the second.

"They threw at Napoli on purpose," Cashner said. "I hit two guys on the elbow and they threw behind Napoli's head."

Cashner, Napoli on fracas, loss

Napoli also had a single and a home run in his first two at-bats against McCullers. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he did not condone throwing behind an opposing hitter but. ... 

"I don't condone Altuve getting hit or Yuli getting hit, either," Hinch said. "The inside of the plate when we're on defense is ours, too. Obviously, he's not going to let him get extended again. You don't want balls going behind any hitter, namely your own. But they're going to get away from time to time, especially when you're trying to drive a ball inside."

The pitch was the first one of the at-bat.

"Obviously, I didn't like it," Napoli said. "I've been in the game a long time. I understand how things work. Two of their guys get hit, but all he has to do is put it in my hip and I run down to first base. No one likes 95 [mph] behind their back."

Napoli started walking toward the mound and yelling at McCullers. Home plate umpire Gerry Davis tried to head off Napoli and other crew members tried to keep the teams from rushing into the field. They did not succeed and tempers flared among a number of players in a tussle in front of the pitcher's mound.

"He said I smell good," McCullers said. "I said, 'I got some new cologne. Do you want to come smell it? You can smell it.' That was as it."

Hardly. Carlos Gomez and Shin-Soo Choo appeared especially animated on the Rangers side. McCullers was barking right back at Napoli and his catcher Brian McCann was also irate about the situation.

McCullers Jr., Bregman on fracas

"I was trying to go in hard," McCullers said. "I threw in all game, whether they were lefties or righties. I came in a lot Gomez, a lot on Choo. I threw Napoli a heater on the outer half earlier in the game and he hit it out. So Mac and I kind of said, 'Hey we're going to try to go in for effect, for a strike, open up that outer-half of the plate.'

"I was just trying to go inside and it got away. He took some exception to it. It is what it is."

There was some pushing and shouting, but nothing seriously physical. Nobody was ejected and McCullers ended up striking out Napoli to end the inning.

"I think anytime somebody throws behind a hitter's head it's going to create some tension," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said "I get that we're playing baseball and it's hard baseball. They had two guys diving and get hit on pads and he gave up a home run to Napoli and then throw behind his head. Yeah, I think that deserves a little anxiety and anger."

Napoli admitted the incident will only heat up the Rangers-Astros rivalry.

"Yeah, but what's not fun about that?" Napoli said. "That's how it should be. There's too much, people that are friends, and talking before the game, buddy-buddy. I remember coming up, if we were playing that night, it was time to get down and play a tough game and do what you have to do to win. It's what it should be."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.