SEATTLE -- The location of the pitch, not the intention of it, sent Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson "into a rage" Thursday night, and ended up with him throwing his helmet and then pile-driving the pitcher into the ground. "I understood the situation, but there is a right way and a wrong way to play the game," Sexson said after the Mariners' 5-0 loss to the Rangers at Safeco Field. "If you hit me below the shoulders, I am fine with that. But get up near the face, [and] I am not going to deal with that." The Mariners were behind, 4-0, at the time, and two Rangers had reached base when hit by Felix Hernandez pitches. Texas catcher Gerald Laird was plunked with a pitch on his left elbow leading off the second inning, and second baseman Ian Kinsler, who hit a two-run home run two batters after Laird was hit, was nicked with an inside pitch with two outs in the fourth inning.
He glared at Hernandez before taking first base, although TV replays showed Kinsler never made much of an effort to avoid the fastball. The emotions were getting hotter, and Sexson sensed it when he came to bat with two outs and the bases empty in the fourth inning. He said he expected to become a retaliatory target for Texas left-hander Kason Gabbard. The first pitch to the 6-foot-8 Sexson was high, but over the plate. Even so, Sexson became incensed immediately. He dropped his bat, took his helmet off, charged the mound, hit Gabbard in the back with the helmet and proceeded to wrestle the pitcher to the ground. Both benches and bullpens emptied. Former Mariners reliever Eddie Guardado, now with the Rangers, kept incensed Hernandez at bay near first base. "I'm too old to be doing that," Guardado said. "It was probably good for both teams. It got the heart pounding and the blood flowing, and you saw some good baseball after that. But you never want to see that. We play those guys a lot, and those things are going to happen. Hopefully nobody got hurt. The next time out, I'm going out there in my police uniform with my whistle." Before order was restored, Rangers outfielder Milton Bradley picked up Laird, carried him away from the action and ended up shoving the catcher several times in the chest before walking away. Sexson was the only player ejected, and undoubtedly he faces a suspension for his actions. "I know throwing a helmet is the wrong thing to do," Sexson said. "I know in the end that wasn't the right thing to do, but I lost it. You start thinking about a lot of things there. The whole time I was going to the plate, I said, 'I don't mind getting hit, but keep it down.' "I knew the situation. Everybody in the ballpark knew what was going on there. Hit me, and I take first base, but don't throw at my head. I'm 6-foot-8. How difficult is it to hit me in the middle of the back or my thigh? "If he hits me in the face, what are we talking about here? At the time, you are so angry you don't even know what happens for the next five minutes. It's a rage at that point. I wouldn't have been angry if he had kept the ball down." Gabbard remained in the game, but he walked Miguel Cairo, who replaced Sexson, and surrendered an infield single to Yuniesky Betancourt before being replaced by Franklyn German. It was later announced that Gabbard departed because of bruised legs. "If we were trying to hit him, we would have hit him," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If you go look at the replays, Gabbard didn't even come close. Sexson was just frustrated, and things got out of control. You look at the replay -- that ball was over the middle of the plate. He overreacted." As for throwing the helmet, Washington said, "I thought that was bull. How tall is he? Six-foot-13? Run at a little guy and throw a helmet, that's just frustration. The guy, he's a competitor; he's just frustrated." Sexson admitted the way the Mariners have been struggling on offense, and the fact he missed Wednesday night's game to be with his child, who was taken to Children's Hospital, probably had something to do with his reaction to the pitch. "I'm sure it all came to a head right there," he said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.