Tensions boil over between Sox, Rays

Tensions boil over between Sox, Rays
May 26, 2012, 5:12 am
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BOSTON -- If you think that the fireworks at Fenway Park ended on Friday night in the ninth inning, you're probably wrong.

With two outs and nobody on in the top of the ninth, and the Red Sox trailing the Tampa Bay Rays 7-4, Franklin Morales hit Luke Scott in the leg with a 97-mph fastball on a 3-1 pitch.

Perhaps it wasn't the fifth pitch of the at-bat that ticked Scott off. It could have easily been three of the first four pitches that just barely missed hitting him, that set off his frustrations.

Morales began the at-bat with a fastball thrown behind Scott. After a called strike on the second pitch, Morales threw two fastballs inside, and then followed it up by finally hitting him.

"The guy got hit in the leg, and boys will be boys," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after his team's 7-4 loss on Friday night, the first of a three-game set against the Rays.

"Maybe it was the ghost of Fenway past remembering that he bad-mouthed all their fans and their stadium, or something, just directing the ball at his leg," added Valentine in a sarcastic tone.

Scott had previously called Fenway Park a "dump" back in April, amidst the 100-Year Anniversary ceremony.

And seeing that Scott has now been hit five times this season, and three by Red Sox pitching, it does seem suspicious.

But there has been a lot more going on in recent weeks between these two teams that has stirred things up.

In the first of a two-game set in Tampa Bay last week, Clay Buchholz hit Scott with a pitch, and then Morales hit Will Rhymes later on in the same game, which caused Rhymes to collapse moments later and be carted off the field.

After the game, Adrian Gonzalez -- amidst a homerless skid -- guaranteed that he'd hit a home run in the next game. He never specifically called out Tampa Bay's starting pitcher in the second game of the series, but apparently Matt Moore took exception to that home-run prediction, and drilled Gonzalez in the first inning.

Later in the same game, Scott was hit by a pitch for the second-straight night, this time by Felix Doubront. And in the eighth inning, Vicente Padilla hit Rich Thompson.

On Friday night at Fenway, Burke Badenhop hit Dustin Pedroia with a pitch in the lower back in the bottom of the sixth. And then came the top of the ninth, when Morales drilled Scott for the third time in his last three games against Boston.

Afterwards, it was a tale of two different stories.

The Red Sox were adamant that nothing was intentional, and that Morales just let a couple inside fastballs get away from him.

"I tried to go with my fastball in, and I missed a pitch," said Morales after the loss.

Morales added, "You know what, Scott didn't say anything to me. He tried to look at me like, what happened?

"I don't try to go in and hit anybody. I missed a pitch, and I don't try to do it on purpose . . . I tried to go with my fastball in, and I missed."

Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia agreed.

"It's Frankie," said Saltalamacchia. "Frankie's a guy, that, you have to pitch in. It was unfortunate last time at their place, he went in and hit a guy. So that goes through your head a little bit.

"The first one got away from him. But after that, we've got to pitch in. Jon Lester, we didn't pitch in at all tonight, and you saw what happened."

And you saw what happened after Scott got hit in the ninth. Scott walked slowly up the first base line, looking out at Morales. After the first pitch, every Tampa Bay player jumped up to the top step of the dugout, just waiting for Scott to lose his cool. They knew what was coming.

Before Scott could even say anything to Morales, Saltalamacchia jumped out in front of him.

"He wanted to know if it was on purpose, and rightfully so," said Saltalamacchia. "But we could also say the same thing. We can ask about Pedroia's or the one above Nava's head, Pedey's head. But you know, it's part of the game, we're out there playing it. They're playing hard, we're playing hard. We both want to win. It's unfortunate it had to happen that way.

"I've just got to protect my pitcher and be a good teammate. That's basically what it comes down to. When you start walking towards the mound, that means you want to say something, you want to do something. And I was protecting Morales, making sure he didn't do anything."

As that took place, both dugouts and bullpens cleared, and the emotions ran high.

"We were all out there," said Valentine. "They were out there. We were out there. I liked the spirit of the guys, going out there. Salty was great. I had a little adrenaline going. And the guys had some adrenaline going. So that's good. There's nothing wrong with that."

At one point, Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure and Rays first baseman Carlos Pena were being separated away from the main pile.

That may have had something to do with how the Rays portrayed Morales' pitches that were thrown at Scott.

"Im kind of curious as to who put out the hit, because I know it wasnt one of their players by the way their players reacted to the entire situation," said Rays manager Joe Maddon afterwards. "Its kindofincompetent behavior. Its the kind of behavior that gets people hurt.

"Thats truly somebody flexing their muscles on the other side that really needs to put them in their back pocket and understand they can hurt someone on their own team.

"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, whereas they can get their own guys hurt with their kind of behavior . . . Quite frankly, I think it was ridiculous, and I think its absurd, idiotic. Use all those different words.

Maddon was adamant that his team did not initiate anything, and even went so far as to defend Moore's pitch that hit Gonzalez last week.

"If they can tell me for one second that Moore did that intentionally, please prove it," said Maddon after Friday's game.

Either way, Maddon wasn't hiding the fact that he's accusing the Red Sox coaching staff for the fireworks.

"They're the ones who were probably behind the effort, the really weak, cowardly effort on their part," said Maddon. "Did I say that strongly enough? Did I make my point?"

Whether the Rays have made their final point in this series remains to be seen. But it sounds like the drama has just begun.