Cubs catcher Michael Barrett stands to lose the most after landing a punch to the right jaw of A.J. Pierzynski after the Sox catcher ran him over at home plate in what both teams said was a clean play in the second inning.
Aside from the bench-clearing incident, pitcher Freddy Garcia and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi made the biggest statements as the Sox embarrassed the Cubs for the second consecutive game.
Garcia (7-1) won his career-high seventh straight decision by limiting the Cubs to eight singles over eight innings. Garcia, who had the aid of three double plays, didn't walk anyone in improving to 4-0 with a 0.60 ERA lifetime against the Cubs.
The Sox didn't seek retaliation after Barrett's punch. They wouldn't have felt the need to do so. Iguchi delivered the biggest blowa grand slam shortly after the Barrett-Pierzynski altercationand he added a two-run shot in the fifth for his first multihomer game in the big leagues.
"A 5-0 lead with Freddy on the mound and the way we were pumped up and stick up for each other, I knew it was going to be tough to beat us," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
For the Cubs, there were warning signs before Iguchi's grand slam. Left-hander Rich Hill (0-4) walked three consecutive batters before Anderson hit a fly to left.
Pierzynski, known more for being the center of controversy than for his speed, ran over Barrett, who was trying to block home plate without the ball.
Pierzynski went back to slap home plate with his right hand as Barrett slowly got up. Pierzynski said he then went to retrieve his helmet that had fallen toward the backstop in the direction of Barrett instead of walking to the Sox dugout.
As Pierzynski dipped his left shoulder, Barrett grabbed him and paused momentarily before landing a blow to Pierzynski's jaw that sent him flying and sent "oohs" throughout the stands.
Left fielder Scott Podsednik grabbed Barrett on the ground as Cubs third-base coach Chris Speier tried to keep peace by holding Pierzynski from the action that swelled at home plate.
Mabry ran toward the middle of the action, and Anderson, a .170 batter, took his best cuts of the season at Mabry as they tumbled.
After nearly 10 minutes, the four major participants were ejected. Barrett, second on the Cubs with 19 RBIs in addition to a .286 batting average, could face a penalty similar to the four-game suspension and $2,000 fine assessed to Oakland's Jason Kendall for fighting Los Angeles Angels pitcher John Lackey on May 2.
"I expect to be disciplined," Barrett said. "That's part of the price for doing these things."
Pierzynski, Anderson and Mabry also face discipline, pending Major League Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson's review of the umpires' report and videotape of the incident.
"A.J. is not going to get suspended," Guillen declared. "I don't expect that because he was protecting himself. I don't want to go through this thing."
Pierzynski suggested he might appeal any suspension levied against him.
For the second time, umpire crew chief Charlie Reliford declined to comment on an incident involving Pierzynski, whom Los Angeles Angels' Kelvim Escobar nailed on April 29.
But the biggest test comes for the Cubs and manager Dusty Baker, who have lost 15 of their last 18 games.
"That's what I'm best atchallenges," Baker said. "Not only on the baseball field but off the field. That's what I'm very good at and plan on doing."
Baker directed a San Francisco team with 94 losses in 1996 to a National League West title in '97 with 90 victories, but his Cubs lack the power of a Barry Bonds or Jeff Kent and, for now, Derrek Lee.
"[General manager] Jim Hendry has been trying, big time," Baker said of the search for offense since Lee broke his wrist. "But a lot of it starts with starting pitching. Five runs in the second inning puts you behind the eight-ball."