- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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But before the final out was made and the Rays finished with a 7-4 win, the clubs engaged in a bench-clearing brawl after Red Sox reliever Franklin Morales drilled the Rays' Luke Scott in the leg with a pitch.
"A guy got hit in the leg and boys will be boys," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said.
But the incident wasn't that cut and dry.
There's no doubt these American League East foes have built an intense rivalry over the years and it intensified once again.
Anyone watching Scott's at-bat in the ninth could see it building. Morales threw a total of five pitches and all of them were fastballs. The first offering was up and behind Scott's back. The next two were inside, which brought most of the Rays players to the top step of the visitor's dugout.
Morales' next offering was a ball and the fifth drilled Scott in the leg.
Scott wasn't happy with the situation and started walking on the infield grass as he slowly made his way down the first-base line. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia stepped in front of Scott as the Rays players charged the field. Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure was one of the first out of the home dugout.
The bullpens emptied too, and even though no punches were thrown and no one was ejected, including Morales, tempers on both sides were heated.
After the game, Rays manager Joe Maddon clearly wasn't blaming the Red Sox players for the incident. It seemed he was directing his anger elsewhere.
"I'm kind of curious as to who put out the hit, because I know it wasn't one of their players by the way their players reacted to the entire situation," Maddon said. "It's kind of incompetent behavior. It's the kind of behavior that gets people hurt and gets you hurt on your own side."
It was the third time in as many games Scott has been hit by a pitch from a Red Sox pitcher. During a two-game set last week in St. Petersburg, Fla., Clay Buchholz first drilled Scott. The following day, Boston starter Felix Doubront hit Scott in what appeared to be retaliation for Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez being hit earlier in the game (more on that later).
There's no doubt a history between Scott and the Red Sox.
In the week leading up to this season's home opener at Fenway Park, in which the Red Sox were celebrating the 100th anniversary of their storied ballpark, Scott called Fenway a "dump." Earlier in spring training, Scott told MLB.com that Sox fans are "ruthless, vulgar and cause trouble."
So it's understandable why Red Sox fans boo Scott every time he steps onto the field at Fenway. After Friday's incident, Valentine had an interesting take when asked about Scott's reaction to being hit.
"Maybe it was the Ghost of Fenway Past remembering he bad-mouthed all our fans and our stadium or something and just directed the ball toward his leg," Valentine said.
Morales also drilled the Rays' Will Rhymes in the elbow last week, with the Tampa Bay player passing out. Morales was visibly upset after Rhymes fainted, and he claimed after Friday's game that there was no intent to hit Scott.
"I tried to make my pitch inside and I missed," Morales said. "I said, 'I'm sorry.' I don't try to hit any player."
Maddon wasn't buying it.
"To be really carelessly incompetent on their side, to truly intentionally hit somebody by throwing behind somebody and hitting them in the leg for all the wrong reasons. They can get their own guys hurt with their kind of behavior," Maddon said. "Quite frankly I think it was ridiculous, and I think it's absurd, idiotic, I'll use all those different words."
Saltalamacchia, who quickly got between Scott and Morales, saw the situation differently.
"It's Frankie. Frankie's a guy who has to pitch in and it was unfortunate last time at their place he went in and hit a guy, so that goes through your head a little bit," Saltalamacchia said. "The first one got away from him, but after that we've got to pitch in. With [starter Jon Lester] we didn't pitch in at all tonight and you saw what happened. It was an at-bat we need to shut him down right there because we got two quick outs and we needed that third one. It, unfortunately, got away."
After Scott was hit in the ninth, he clearly was upset.
"As the way it looks, he wanted to know if it was on purpose and rightfully so, but we could ask the same thing," Saltalamacchia said. "We could ask about Pedey's or the one over Nava's head or the one over Pedey's head. It's part of the game and we're out there playing it. They're playing hard. We're playing hard and we both want to win. It's unfortunate it had to happen that way.
"I've got to protect my pitcher and be a good teammate," Saltalamacchia added. "That's what it basically comes down to. When you start walking toward the mound, that means you want to say something or do something. I was protecting him and making sure he didn't do anything."
Rewind to St. Petersburg last week.
Gonzalez had said after the Red Sox's 2-1 loss in the opener of a two-game set that he would come back the next night and hit a home run.
Early Thursday afternoon, Rays pitcher David Price retweeted a tweet he received from a fan that read: "Moore should put one right between his numbers," referring to Matt Moore, that night's Tampa starter, sending a message to Gonzalez.
With two runners on and one out in the top of the first inning, Gonzalez stepped into the batter's box against Moore, and on the first offering, the right-hander drilled Gonzalez in the thigh.
When asked if he thought there was intent to hit Gonzalez in that situation, Valentine said after Boston's 5-3 win that night: "If it was, it was the stupidest thing I've ever seen in baseball. It might have been, but I doubt it. If we have to resort to that kind of stupidity then maybe the game has passed me by."
Maddon had his own not-so subtle way of describing his emotions after Friday's game when asked if he thought Morales was throwing at Scott because of the Gonzalez incident.
"If they can tell me for one second that Moore did that intentionally, please prove it," Maddon said.
After Friday's game, Gonzalez said he didn't believe there was any carryover from last week's series in St. Petersburg.
"I don't think so," he said. "We didn't talk about anything like that and there wasn't any hard feelings from the last series. It definitely wasn't from that."
Pedroia made no accusations about his being hit.
"I don't know," Pedroia said. "We're just playing the game. It's baseball. You don't want to see anybody get hit. We're trying to win the game. They're a great team and we respect them and tonight they outplayed us."
During the bench-clearing festivities, Rays players were screaming at Valentine, and Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar, a former member of Maddon's staff in Tampa, was giving it right back to the Rays and trying to protect Valentine.
"We were all out there," Valentine said. "I like the spirit of the guys going out there. Salty was great and I had a little adrenaline going and guys had some adrenaline going, so that was good. Nothing wrong with that."
Maddon was not happy with the way the Red Sox coaching staff acted during the melee.
"They're the ones who were probably behind the effort, the really weak, cowardly effort on their part," Maddon said. "Did I say that strongly enough? Did I make my point?"
It'll be interesting to see if there's any carryover on Saturday night, especially with Josh Beckett starting for the Red Sox. In the past, Beckett has protected his teammates, and with all the off-field controversy that has surrounded him since last September, this could be an opportunity to again prove something to his teammates.
"We've got a guy on the mound tomorrow who has a winning record," Saltalamacchia said, "so we're going to rely on him to get us started tomorrow and set the tone and let our offense do what they do."
Bill Humphrey of ESPNBoston.com contributed to this report.