Joe Kelly went viral a couple years ago for instigating a benches-clearing incident after he struck out and mocked then-Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, and on Friday night he was again caught chirping at a former Houston player.
Friday's scene in Oakland unfolded when the White Sox right-hander fanned Athletics utility man Tony Kemp swinging on a nasty 3-2 breaking ball to end the bottom of the seventh inning.
Kemp objected to the umpire's ruling that he had swung at the pitch, but Kelly, on his way to the dugout, appeared to bark at Kemp that the pitch was in the strike zone even if Kemp hadn't swung. Kelly also appeared to pepper his rant with a choice 12-letter word that starts with "mother" and rhymes with "trucker." Kemp responded with a sarcastic thumbs up.
It was unclear whether Kelly's harsh words were motivated by the infamous cheating scandal that some, including and perhaps especially Kelly, say tarnished the Astros' World Series title in 2017.
Kelly made it clear that his brash, sad-faced mockery after striking out Correa in July 2020 was indeed revenge over the cheating revelations. Correa later exacted some measure of payback late last season, when he homered off Kelly, then with the Dodgers, in Los Angeles.
After the 2019 season, an MLB investigation found that the Astros had skirted league rules in 2017 and '18 by signaling to their hitters what pitch was coming from the opposing pitcher by banging on a garbage can in their dugout.
Kemp was a seldom-used reserve with the Astros in '17 when they won the World Series, but he saw more action in '18, appearing in 97 games and logging 297 plate appearances. He was sent to the Chicago Cubs in a midseason trade in 2019, and was then traded to the A's during the following offseason.