Justin Smoak and Christian Yelich smacked home runs and players from both teams were hit by pitches sparking a social-distancing shouting match as the Milwaukee Brewers trampled the Chicago Cubs 8-3 on Saturday.
The fourth inning began with a shouting match between the two dugouts thanks in part to not having fans in the eerily-quiet Wrigley Field ballpark.
But with the numerous health and safety measures in place because of the global pandemic the umpires made sure the players stayed on their side of the field.
“I think this is going to be part of this season,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Both dugouts can hear each other and umpires can hear everything. There’s talking that goes on in game you never hear with all the fans here. It’s just part of the game.”
Cubs manager David Ross said not having fans means teammate chatter can be heard by the other team.
“I think if you’re in the dugout now in this environment, you’re going to expect some of that,” Ross said. “That’s going to spark some intensity. I don’t know how it all kind of started.”
Smoak and Yelich each blasted their first home runs of the season, and Ben Gamel added a two-run triple for Milwaukee. Yelich belted 44 home runs last season. Lorenzo Cain finished three-for-four with a double and an RBI.
Kyle Schwarber hammered a two-run homer to lead the Cubs at the plate.
Chicago’s Javier Baez reached base three times with a pair of singles and a hit by pitch in the first inning.
The Brewers Omar Narvaez was hit by pitches in the fourth and fifth innings.
Chicago’s Schwarber said the new coronavirus protocols mean physical contact between players could result in a suspension.
“We’re going to have to be careful with the new rules and not be able to go into each other,” he said.
Cubs Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish gave up three runs on six hits in four innings. He walked none and struck out five.
Elsewhere, Victor Robles finished with a home run and four RBIs as the reigning World Series champion Washington Nationals dominated the New Yankees 9-2 at Nationals Park.
The Nationals, who were held to just one hit in Thursday’s rain-shortened loss, had to overcome five errors and the absence of star pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
Erick Fedde started for Strasburg, who was scratched due to a nerve problem in his hand.
Fedde allowed two runs on four hits in four innings. He struck out three, walked one and threw 68 pitches to 19 hitters.
Robles finished a triple shy of the cycle and produced his second career game with at least four RBIs.
The centre fielder had a two-run double, and added a two-run homer in the fourth off rookie Mike King. Robles missed a chance at getting the cycle when he struck out in the eighth.