Tempers flare in Rays-Red Sox series finale
Benches clear in seventh, with Escobar, Rodriguez, Gomes all ejected
ST. PETERSBURG -- Sunday afternoon's Rays-Red Sox contest at Tropicana Field got heated in the seventh inning, resulting in the ejections of Jonny Gomes, Yunel Escobar and Sean Rodriguez.
Escobar had just doubled home two runs to give the Rays an 8-3 lead with two outs when he took third base on defensive indifference.
Shortly thereafter, Boston catcher David Ross began to bark at Escobar from the Red Sox dugout and Escobar returned fire to the point he had to be restrained by Rays third-base coach Tom Foley.
While Foley worked to hold Escobar back, Red Sox left fielder -- and former Ray -- Jonny Gomes ran in from his position to shove Escobar. From there, things got heated.
Both benches emptied while umpires, players, coaches and managers worked to make sure cooler heads prevailed. Once the dust settled, Gomes, Escobar and Rodriguez were ejected.
The Rays' interpretation of what happened was that the Red Sox were upset with Escobar for taking third.
In that vein, Tampa Bay manager Maddon called attention to Game 1 of the 2013 American League Division Series between the clubs. With the Rays trailing, 8-2, in the eighth, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to lead off the inning, then stole second.
"I want to take this moment, please, regarding this crazy stuff about leads and teams not trying to score runs," Maddon said. "I did not take any exception when they stole on us last year in the eighth inning of the Division Series. … I didn't take any, because our goal is to not permit them to score runs. Our goal is to score runs -- the whole game. I mean, it's always been the goal within the game of baseball. Apparently some of their guys on their bench did not like that. I really wish they would roll back the tape and look at that more specifically."
Added Rodriguez: "Five runs? In a big league game? Five runs? We were down seven in the seventh in [Game] 162 [of the 2010 season] to make it to the playoffs to beat them. Yeah, we won't take that for granted."
According to the Red Sox's side of the story, Escobar's taking third was only part of the problem.
Gomes, who served a suspension in 2008 after participating in a memorable altercation at Fenway Park while playing for the Rays against the Red Sox, explained his actions.
Escobar "was yelling at our dugout a whole lot and then kind of kept yelling and then kind of took his helmet off and continued to yell," Gomes said. "I don't know. I don't have much patience, nor do I have much time to be in an arguing match. That's why it happened.
"He can have the bag if he wants the bag. I'm not concerned about the bag at all. I wouldn't have done it, but I don't have a problem with him taking the bag. He can take the bag all he wants. Yell in my dugout and point in my dugout and take your helmet off and basically challenge our whole dugout, I'll have a problem with that."
Ross allowed that the steal did not sit well with the Red Sox.
"I think our whole team took exception to the stolen base down five with two outs in the [seventh]," Ross said. "He's in scoring position. But that's neither here nor there. I think we're just tired of getting beat. We're frustrated. It's fine. … I think it got a little more heated as we got attacked, and we kind of attacked back. That's what happens. We play these guys a lot. There's no secret -- they like to beat us and we like to beat them."
Red Sox manager John Farrell felt as though the original comments from his dugout stemmed from Escobar stealing third with a five-run lead.
"We're down five in the seventh, so it's somewhat of a gray area when you shut down the running game," said Farrell, who managed Escobar when both were with the Blue Jays. "Yunel is going to do some things that might be unpredictable. That's what precipitated it."
Escobar has been a good citizen with the Rays, but he arrived to the team with a reputation. Maddon was asked about his Escobar's actions.
"It just depends what was actually being said from the dugout," Maddon said. "You have to always put yourself in that person's shoes. There's a lot of emotion in our games. I'd be surprised if he understood everything that was being said to him out there. I guess vitriol translates to almost any language. Because there's a lot of emotion attached to it. And I would be certain that the players who were screaming it also, added to the moment."
As for Escobar, all he had to say was, "As far as I'm concerned, it's over."
Maddon felt like a lot of players were doing a lot of screaming and noted that he did not feel Rodriguez should have been ejected, because he did nothing more than scream about the situation. Rodriguez said he was surprised to get ejected for his actions.
"I was definitely upset that I got tossed," Rodriguez said. "I didn't think there was a reason for it."
Rodriguez noted he was not pleased with the umpires telling Rays players to leave the field during the altercation.
"That's why I was upset, because they were five feet from their dugout," Rodriguez said. "You put them in their dugout, we'll go back. We're just coming out because they're screaming at our one player who is five feet from them. We're just going out to defend our teammate."
Mike Carp moved from first base to left field while Jonathan Herrera went into the ninth spot of the Red Sox's order, which had been occupied by Gomes.
Cole Figueroa replaced Escobar and went to second base while Logan Forsythe moved from second base to shortstop.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.