Detroit — The Tigers had each other’s backs Thursday.
Well, for the most part.
On a fight-filled afternoon at Comerica Park, the most intriguing dustup might’ve been one that didn’t include a single thrown punch. In the seventh inning, after James McCann was drilled in the helmet by Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and benches emptied for the second time, YES Network cameras caught an interesting exchange in the Tigers dugout between Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez.
Nick Castellanos also was in the middle of it.
In the brief video clip, after things had died down on the field, Martinez and Verlander can be seen talking calmy yet both seemingly agitated. Finally, Verlander waves off Martinez, starts to walk away, then circles back with another hand gesture — one that isn’t clearly obscene, though Tigers fans on Twitter seemed to think it was.
Verlander again walked away, and this time Martinez started following him, his voice raised.
That’s when Castellanos stepped in and held Martinez back.
So, what gives?
“I was actually on the field, so I haven’t seen it. I haven’t talked to them about it, but I’m aware of it,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said following his team’s 10-6 win in the series finale.
“Again, emotions are running high. They’re running high on both sides.”
Martinez was gone by the time clubhouse doors opened after the game, and Verlander declined to speak to reporters, through a Tigers spokesman. He did send out a tweet with a GIF of buffoon anchorman Ron Burgundy saying, “Boy, that escalated quickly.”
Castellanos talked briefly with reporters, but didn’t specifically address that situation.
Castellanos did talk about the first benches-clearing incident, which led to a brawl in the sixth inning. With Miguel Cabrera and Austin Romine tussling on the ground, Castellanos went diving in to try to break things up.
There, Castellanos got punched, by his count, five times, including once from Gary Sanchez, whose sucker-punch game seems to match his power game.
“You go look at that, how many punches did I throw? Zero,” Castellanos said. “And I had ... five people on top of me, and I’m getting drilled from all angles. For somebody that’s not throwing any punches? You guys be the judge of that.”
So, how does Castellanos figure into the Verlander-Martinez incident?
It won’t be perfectly clear until Verlander and Martinez address it themselves, perhaps Friday in Chicago, but the popular theory is Verlander and Castellanos were none too happy with Martinez’s chummy behavior with the Yankees — and perhaps with Sanchez — during the scuffle after McCann was hit.
McCann, too, said he couldn’t comment on what transpired.