SEATTLE — The two-run homer Ian Kinsler hit in the second inning Thursday night seemed harmless enough, though it put the Seattle Mariners’ dormant offense in a four-run hole it wouldn’t be able to erase.
But the Texas Rangers’ second baseman was hit above the left elbow during his next at-bat in the fourth inning, and Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson believed the Rangers would retaliate.
So, when the 6-foot-8 saw an eye-high fastball from Kason Gabbard in the bottom of the inning, he said he became filled with rage.
Just imagine the emotions he would have felt had the ball actually hit him.
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The pitch was at least 18 inches from touching him, but he charged the mound anyway. The ensuing bench-clearing brawl became the main event during a 5-0 Rangers victory at Safeco Field.
The Rangers claimed afterward that Gabbard was not throwing at Sexson in retaliation for two plunked Rangers, most notably Kinsler.
“We don’t throw at people’s head,” manager Ron Washington said. “If you go back and look at the replay, Gabbard was nowhere near Sexson. If we had wanted to hit him, we would have hit him.”
Sexson said it was obvious that Gabbard was seeking revenge.
“Everybody in the ballpark knew what was going on there,” Sexson said. “Throw a pitch up around my head, I’m not going to deal with that. It’s the wrong way to play baseball.”
That saga overshadowed the Rangers’ third consecutive win, which prolonged the Mariners’ spiral down the AL West standings.
Five pitchers combined on a second straight shutout, Kinsler had a two-run homer and Ramon Vazquez was 4-for-5 as the Rangers took their fourth straight series.
They posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2004, when they blanked the Angels on Sept. 18 and Sept. 19. The Rangers held the Mariners to only one run over the final 32 innings of the series.
But that all took a back seat to the Sexson-Gabbard brawl. Sexson raced toward Gabbard after a two-out, bases-empty fastball sailed high but over the plate.
Sexson, though, assumed he was target of Rangers retaliation for Felix Hernandez hitting Kinsler, who had homered in the second to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead.
“He lost one up and in and got me,” Kinsler. “I have no idea if he did it on purpose. He’s the only one who knows that. It wasn’t a good situation. You like to believe that’s a purpose pitch.”
Both benches and bullpens cleared after Sexson took his helmet off and flung it into the back of Gabbard, who had ducked. Sexson then fell on Gabbard, who earlier in the day had come off the 15-day disabled list with a back injury.
“How tall is he, 6-13?” Washington said. “And he goes out there on a little guy and throws a helmet. The guy’s a competitor, and he just got frustrated.”
Hernandez and Rangers catcher Gerald Laird, who had been hit in the second inning, were the most excitable players during the brawl.
Hernandez (2-3) had to be restrained by Rangers lefty Eddie Guardado, who a former Mariners reliever.
“He was like, ‘You know, Eddie, I didn’t hit him [Kinsler] on purpose,’ ” Guardado recalled. “I was just trying to calm him down.”
Laird was held back by teammate Milton Bradley, who at one point picked up Laird, carried him about 10 feet and shoved him in the chest to get him to calm down.
“You’ve got to protect your teammates,” Laird said. “I’m not saying he [Hernandez] did it on purpose [hit Kinsler]. It just didn’t look good.”
Sexson was the only player ejected. After the melee, Gabbard faced two batters before being removed officially because of bruised legs. He had pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
The left-hander declined to comment after the game.
“He was at the bottom of the pile, and he started feeling it,” Washington said. “He just had some soreness, and to us it looked like he was laboring.”
The Rangers jumped on Hernandez with two runs in the first on a sacrifice fly from David Murphy and a run-scoring single by Brandon Boggs.
Kinsler added his two-run shot an inning later. Ramon Vazquez, who was 4-for-5, made it 5-0 in the sixth with a single to left.
The Rangers finished their seven-game road trip 5-2 and will begin nine-game homestand tonight against the Oakland A’s. The Mariners come to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Monday.
“We’re not carrying it,” Washington said. “If they do something, we’ll retaliate. We don’t have a vendetta against the Seattle Mariners.”