Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Devil of a time

Red Sox prevail in a contentious game vs. Tampa

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On a day when payback and brushbacks and two bench-clearing events were the show at Tropicana Field, the Red Sox, losers of two straight one-run games and the target of errant and/or purpose pitches, decided they had endured enough from the young, small-market Devil Rays.

The Sox fought their way to an 11-3 win to claim one game of the three-game series, but, more important, they salvaged their pride before their return to Boston last night.

If the combustible day needed an exclamation point, Jay Payton, who replaced the ejected Trot Nixon, provided one with a grand slam in the eighth inning off Rob Bell. One out later, David Ortiz hit another mammoth shot, off the "C" ring catwalk.

"I'll take that," Payton said. "I thanked Trot for getting ejected."

Manager Terry Francona called a meeting before yesterday's game for what he called some "housekeeping," although he wouldn't elaborate.

Francona was ejected along with Nixon and Bronson Arroyo in the bench-clearing incidents in the seventh inning. The Devil Rays lost manager Lou Piniella, pitcher Dewon Brazelton (who did not pitch yesterday but tangled with Nixon), and Lance Carter.

The fireworks began when Carter threw high and behind Ramirez with one out in the seventh. That was apparently in retaliation for Arroyo hitting Aubrey Huff with a pitch in the sixth with two outs. After a warning was issued to both benches, Ramirez answered with a home run to left field.

"I have no comment," Ramirez said to reporters.

Kevin Millar, whose legs are black and blue from being hit with pitches and fouling a ball off his foot in the series, said, "[Carter] woke up the baby. Sometimes Manny takes nap."

Carter then threw behind Ortiz's head on a 1-and-2 pitch. When Ortiz tried to rush the mound (he was restrained) and the teams ran onto the field, Nixon and Brazelton got into it verbally, and in the ensuing scuffle Nixon claimed Brazelton poked him in the eye.

Umpiring crew chief Rick Reed said, "Nixon and Brazelton were escalating the situation. In fact, Nixon was asked a couple of times to leave the area. He continued to make aggressive comments. Brazelton was out of control also."

Reed also said he didn't believe there was anything "malicious" in the first two games that would have been an indication of what happened. He also said he was not tipped off to any potential bad blood between the teams, although they have a history.

After a nine-minute delay, the players returned to their places and the inning continued.

"You don't want guys missing time because someone is being stupid out there," Ortiz said. "When someone throws at your head, my game mentally changes. That's dangerous. They've been playing the [hitting batters] game three days here. I don't play that. It was crazy out there."

Asked whether he felt Carter was throwing at his head, Ortiz said, "Oh, yeah -- what do you think?"

Ortiz said he doesn't believe Scott Kazmir was throwing at Sox hitters (he hit Ramirez and Millar Friday night), but he did say Kazmir needs to learn to pitch inside without hurting people.

"You throw the ball like that, you've got to learn location," Ortiz said. "He throws the ball hard."

Ortiz also took a shot at Piniella.

"Everybody is professional here," he said. "Everybody needs to act professional. It's not like we're playing baby games. Like sometimes I'm watching TV [in the clubhouse between at-bats] and their manager is going off on their pitcher just because they make a mistake. I never saw that before. And that tells you that sometimes everything is started because of him."

Piniella fired back at Ortiz, saying, "The umpires did a good job, except Ortiz should have been kicked out. I don't know why he stayed in. Once the batter leaves the batter's box and starts toward the mound, whether he grabs him or not, he should be ejected."

Piniella added, "If they are going to hit our batters, we're certainly going to do the same thing. In that case, the ball [to Ortiz] might have gotten away from [Carter]. Look, we walked nine batters. It wasn't like we had impeccable control."

In the bottom of the seventh, Arroyo wasted little time throwing at leadoff hitter Chris Singleton's legs, again prompting the dugouts and bullpens to empty. There were more angry words, with Curt Schilling appearing to call out someone on the Tampa Bay side.

Francona, already in trouble with Major League Baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson for his criticism of umpire Greg Gibson in an April 14 game against the Yankees, was a little perturbed by Kazmir hitting Ramirez and Millar Friday night after Kazmir had been ejected for hitting both players back-to-back in a game last September.

Piniella also felt Arroyo was purposely trying to hit Huff.

"They might dispute that," he said. "We're not going to be intimidated whether you are the world champions or not. I don't know what their intentions were and I'm not going to put words in anybody's mouth. I know we are going to protect our hitters."

Millar suffered quite a bruise and welt on his right shin, and had been hit by a pitch in the eighth inning Saturday night. Schilling also plunked Carl Crawford in that game.

Amid the sideshow, there was some baseball.

Johnny Damon knocked in two runs with four hits and was on base five times; Ramirez knocked in two runs, adding a sacrifice fly in the first inning to his solo homer. The Sox put together their first multirun first inning of the season, off Devil Rays starter Hideo Nomo, with Millar's single driving in the second run. The Sox scored their third run on Damon's double in the second inning after Edgar Renteria singled and stole second.

Arroyo, who led the majors with 20 hit batters last season, pitched well and went unbeaten for the 13th straight start. He pitched six innings and allowed seven hits and three earned runs. He probably would have pitched longer had it not been his "duty" to plunk Singleton.

"Nobody told me to do anything," Arroyo said. "I was just pitching."

When asked if he thought Arroyo might face a suspension, Francona defended him, saying, "I don't know what's going to happen -- he hit the guy in the thigh."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months