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Knock down, drag out

RED SOX 11, RAYS 3: A day of brushbacks and brawls is not a total loss to Lou Piniella.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 25, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays and Red Sox resumed their hostilities Sunday afternoon, a series of too-close pitches leading to two bench-clearing incidents, six ejections and some heated exchanges and wink-wink explanations before Boston pulled away for an 11-3 victory to avoid an unimaginable sweep at Tropicana Field.

But at the end of the long afternoon, Rays manager LouPiniella wanted to make sure one thing wasn't lost in the scuffle.

"We're not going to be intimidated whether you're a world championship ballclub or not,"Piniella said.

"I don't know what their intentions are, and I'm not going to put words in anybody's mouth, but I know that we're going to protect our hitters. I can tell you that."

The teams have a history going back to a wild Aug.29, 2000, brawl sparked by pitcher Pedro Martinez hitting Gerald Williams, and several series since have been marred by hit batters, multiple ejections and flared tempers.

Five batters (three Red Sox, two Rays) were hit in Tampa Bay's Friday and Saturday wins, and when Brooksville's Bronson Arroyo drilled slugger Aubrey Huff with two outs in the sixth inning of a 4-2 game Sunday, the Rays felt it was intentional and retaliated.

With one out in the seventh, Lance Carter threw his first pitch behind Manny Ramirez, drawing a warning to both benches from the umpires. Boston's top slugger hit back, blasting the next pitch into the leftfield seats.

Carter got ahead 1-and-2 on the next hitter, David Ortiz, then knocked him down with a pitch toward his head.

The powerful DH reacted angrily, stepping toward the mound before being restrained by home-plate umpire Ted Barrett and catcher Toby Hall, as players from both benches and bullpens raced toward the mound.

More words were exchanged than punches, with Carl Crawford noticeably in the vicinity of Curt Schilling, who hit him Saturday. Boston's Trot Nixon and Tampa Bay's Dewon Brazelton did enough - "escalating the situation," according to umpire crew chief Rick Reed - to get ejected. Carter and Piniella were automatically tossed as well.

Piniella felt strongly that Ortiz also should have been ejected, and didn't buy Reed's explanation that being in Barrett's grasp should have mattered.

Ortiz didn't think there was any doubt Carter was throwing at him, and didn't hide his feelings. "I'm not going to take any s--- from anybody, bro," Ortiz said. "It's dangerous. ... When somebody throws at your head? I don't play that. It was crazy out there."

Carter left without talking to reporters. And Piniella didn't exactly clear up the question of his intentions.

"They might have gotten away, they might have not," Piniella said. "Look, if they're going to hit our hitters, we certainly can do the same. In that case there, the ball might have gotten away. We walked nine hitters (Sunday); it's not like we had impeccable control."

Ortiz threw the blame - and some criticism - at Piniella.

"This is a game where everybody's professional here. They have to act professional. It's not like we're playing a baby game," Ortiz said.

"Sometimes I'm watching TV, their manager is going off on their pitchers just because they're making mistakes. That tells you sometimes that everything started because of him. You don't wake people up like that. You've got a whole bunch of young players out there, teach them how to play the game."

When the Sox left Arroyo in to start the seventh but had Matt Mantei warming up, Chris Singleton, the Rays' first batter, figured - correctly - that he was next.

"The tension had been building," Singleton said. "They had a couple guys hit, we had a couple guys hit. It was obvious they were trying to play a little catchup."

The benches and bullpens emptied again as Arroyo and manager Terry Francona were tossed.

Most players on both sides said the incidents were typical baseball exchanges, unrelated to the past skirmishes and nothing that necessarily would be continued when the teams meet in July. "That's a part of the game," Boston's Kevin Millar said. "We're a family in here and you've got to protect your family."

But Singleton said that after he was hit, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said, "It's got to end, it's got to end."'

"And I said, "Well, why didn't it end last inning?"' Singleton said. "You get in a situation like that and no one knows when to stop."

By the eighth, the sideshows were over, the Rays down 5-3 following a so-so start by Hideo Nomo. Then the Red Sox got down to business before the loud crowd of 30,236, taking advantage of poor control and bad pitches from Trever Miller, Seth McClung and Rob Bell to break the game open with six runs, including a long payback homer by Ortiz and a grand slam by Jay Payton.

All things considered, Piniella said the weekend was a success.

"Winning two out of three against Boston," he said, "I don't think we have any complaints."