Dave Roberts curled his lips into a snarl. His eyes flared with rage. He pointed at San Diego manager Andy Green and screamed across the diamond.
“You and me!” Roberts said. He spat and swore.
Roberts shouted the challenge toward Green as a placid evening at Petco Park descended into chaos before the second inning of a 10-4 Dodgers victory. A gripe about the Padres stealing signs led to a confrontation between Roberts and Green, which led to both benches clearing and both managers earning an ejection.
After umpire Greg Gibson issued a warning during the bottom of the first, he convened Roberts and Green to explain the ruling. The meeting was brief but contentious. Green leaned toward Roberts and criticized Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood, Roberts explained later. Green walked back toward his dugout. Roberts did not.
“When you start making pointed comments about our player, then I think I’ve got a problem with it,” Roberts said. “That’s all I wanted to convey to Andy.”
Gibson put his hand on Roberts’ chest. Roberts shook free, ran over and bumped Green. As both benches emptied, Gibson grabbed Roberts and yanked him away. The two teams met at the plate, with Wood jawing with former Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire, while first-base coach George Lombard tried to keep the peace. When the two teams returned to their dugouts, Roberts stood at the top of the steps, hollering at Green. Behind him, his players looked bewildered.
As Roberts explained his anger later, he fixated on Green’s comments about Wood. Green would say later that Wood threatened to hit San Diego outfielder Jose Pirela for relaying signals while standing at second base. Green admitted after that game that the umpires found his comments to be “inflammatory.” Roberts certainly did.
“I probably got too emotional,” Roberts said. “But I think we all care about our players. But when things are said about a certain player, or your player, then I think you get a little bit more sensitive to it. I think I could have handled it differently.”
Infuriated by Green, Roberts spent the final eight innings inside his clubhouse. He exited with his team already ahead by four runs, the product of a first-inning grand slam by Austin Barnes. Wood (9-0, 1.83 earned-run average) prevented the Padres from pulling the game within reach. He logged six innings of one-run baseball. He struck out the side in the second and again in the third, finishing the evening with eight. He became the first Dodger to start a season 9-0 since Rick Rhoden in 1976.
“Crazy stuff like that happens,” Barnes said.
The Dodgers ended June in fitting fashion, slugging their opponent into submission. When Joc Pederson went deep on Thursday in Anaheim, the Dodgers set a franchise record with 50 homers in a month. The power surge zoomed the club into first place in the National League West. The team entered last night with a 20-7 record in June. Yet Roberts was not searching for laurels upon which to rest.
“They do take pride in their power,” Roberts said before the game. “I think we’re trying to get them to take pride in the quality of their at-bats. But I think that everyone loves the homer. And they’ve played big for us in the month of June.”
On the last day of the month, his team met his standard, combining brute force with taxing at-bats in the first inning. Turner opened the door with a two-out single off Padres starter Clayton Richard. Cody Bellinger worked a walk. So did Logan Forsythe. The bases were loaded for Barnes.
Richard tried to throw a changeup. Barnes hammered it to center field. It was the first grand slam of his career — and the last moment of normalcy for the early evening.
In the bottom of the inning, Padres outfielder Jose Pirela led off with a double. During the next at-bat, Wood became convinced Pirela was relaying the location of pitches toward the plate. After outfielder Manuel Margot checked his swing on a 2-2 changeup, Wood whirled around and barked at Pirela.
“I didn’t mean to overreact,” Wood said. “I just got caught up in the moment.”
Wood said he did not threaten to throw at Pirela. Gibson told a different story.
“I’ve known Alex for a while,” Gibson told a pool reporter. “I said, ‘Alex, what’s going on?’ He said, ‘If he gives away the signs again, I’m going to drill him.’”
Gibson conferred with the umpiring crew. He issued a warning to both benches. Neither manager understood why.
“What happened?” Green asked. Across the diamond, Roberts was equally confounded. “What’s going on?” Roberts said.
Wood calmed down and escaped the inning. He struck out first baseman Wil Myers for the second out. Yasiel Puig dove to snag the third out. As he was sprawled over the baseball, Puig planted a kiss across the ball’s seams.
There was little love to follow. Gibson and crew chief Sam Holbrook called the two managers together after the catch. “And it was a very civil conversation, for about the first 30 seconds,” Gibson said. From there, the evening jumped the track.
The night before, on the final day of the Freeway Series, the Dodgers reacted with disdain when Angels infielder Yunel Escobar forced the benches to clear after getting hit by reliever Brandon Morrow. The Dodgers felt Escobar had little reason to be upset. A night later, the anger from their manager looked visceral.
As the imbroglio played out, Green appeared less upset than Roberts. Gibson held Roberts’ jersey and Forsythe stood nearby keeping him at bay. Inside the scrum, Clayton Kershaw extricated Wood, who had been shouting at McGwire. Turner stepped in to argue with McGwire.
Eventually the two sides separated. Roberts stopped shouting at Green. Turner would homer. Barnes would supply his three-run shot. Yet the fury from the manager stole the show.
Roberts indicated after the game that he had not thought about whether he would face a suspension for bumping Green. He was not sure what punishment would follow.
“Yeah, I did initiate contact with Andy,” Roberts said. “It was more that I was trying to get his attention, and let him know that I didn’t appreciate some of his parting comments.”