“It’s a war. It’s on.”
Those were the words of David Ortiz, talking to reporters in Boston, after the Rays-Red Sox game on Friday night — a wild affair that included four Red Sox ejections and ended on a walk-off triple by Boston’s A.J. Pierzynski. By the end, after all the ejections, the Red Sox were on their fourth manager of the night.
Here’s how the madness started: In the first inning, Ortiz came up with Dustin Pedroia on first. On the first pitch of the at-bat, David Price plunked Ortiz with a 94 mph fastball. Umpire Dan Bellino immediately warned Price and both benches. Red Sox manager John Farrell, certainly not pleased Price received a free shot at Ortiz, lashed out at Bellino, who then ejected the manager.
Price’s plunking of Ortiz likely had little to do with last Sunday’s bench-clearing dustup between the teams at Tropicana Field, which was set off by Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar taking third base on defensive indifference with the Rays up by five runs late in the game. It was probably in reference to Game 2 of the ALDS last October at Fenway, when Ortiz lingered at home plate after his second home run off Price. The two had not faced each other since then until Friday.
In the bottom of the fourth, Price then hit Mike Carp (almost certainly unintentionally in a 1-0 game) with two outs, and the benches cleared for the second time. Price, again, was not ejected. After learning this, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, filling in for Farrell, was ejected. Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield became the third manager of the night.
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In the top of the sixth, Brandon Workman threw a pitch behind Evan Longoria, who along with Butterfield was promptly ejected. Hitting coach Greg Colbrunn filled in as the fourth Red Sox skipper. It wasn’t clear who was next in the line of managerial succession for the Red Sox. Maybe Secretary of State John Kerry?
Fittingly, the game turned on another hit by pitch: With one out in the 10th, Rays reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo hit Jonny Gomes, who scored when Pierzynski ripped a line drive into the center field triangle. Rays outfielders Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings collided going after the ball with Jennings sliding to the ground while Myers went flying over him.
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After the game, according to MassLive.com's Jason Mastrodonato, Ortiz called out Price for holding a grudge after the two had allegedly buried the hatchet following last year's incident:
"I have a lot of respect for the guy, man, but it’s over," Ortiz told reporters. "I have no more respect for him. Last year we kick his ass in the playoffs, he went off, talking (expletive) about everybody, (Sports Illustrated writer) Tom Verducci and everybody. Players.
"We kind of got to talk on the phone. We kind of straightened things out. He was kind of upset. Me as a veteran I kind of let him know how things go in this game. Later on he called me and apologized because he knows he was wrong. He apologized in public. He apologized to myself. Everything was cool. So first at-bat of the season against him he threw at me.
"I mean, it’s a war. It’s on. Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more."
Ortiz wasn't finished, getting personal with his comments on Price later in his postgame debriefing.
"You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. You aren’t going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. But when you’re to be acting like a little (expletive) every time you give it up, bounce back like that and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you.
"I was going to let him know. I respect everybody in this league and I get the same respect from everybody. If you’re mad because I take you deep twice, let me let you know, I have almost 500 homers in this league. It’s part of the game, son."
These are two teams headed in different directions. The Red Sox have now won five in a row -- including two straight walk-off wins -- and enter Saturday within six games of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays have lost four straight and are now 8.5 games back. This is becoming one of the most entertaining rivalries in the game, and it did not disappoint on Friday. The Red Sox are surging. The Rays are sinking. The second game of the series is Saturday night, with Tampa's Jake Odorizzi facing Rubby De La Rosa. Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting weekend in Boston.