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Pedro takes fight from Rays

Boston's ace is nearly perfect in a game that features 8 Devil Rays getting ejected.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tropicana Field scoreboard reflected the specifics, an 8-0 Boston victory and a dazzling one-hit performance by Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez, who carried a no-hit bid into the ninth.

But there was no way it could tell the full story of Tuesday's game.

Not with eight Devil Rays ejected, two bench-clearing skirmishes, four hit batters, a handful of punches thrown, two Boston players at the hospital, accusations of cheap shots leveled at Boston's Brian Daubach, complaints of a double-standard for Martinez, and some taunting comments by Martinez that there may be more to come.

photo
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
The Devil Rays' Gerald Williams charges Boston ace Pedro Martinez after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning of Tuesday night's game at Tropicana Field.
"Hopefully, it won't get any crazier than that," Rays catcher John Flaherty said. "I'm not proud to stand here and say I was part of that game."

All the storylines and subplots revolved around the extraordinarily talented Martinez, whom the Rays had faced three straight times without a loss, the only American League team to have such success.

Martinez hit Gerald Williams on the left hand with his fourth pitch, setting in motion a sequence of events that made this one of the most bizarre games anywhere. Williams charged the mound, nearly knocking Martinez off his feet with a forceful shove and then landing a punch with an overhand right.

By the end:

Eight Devil Rays were ejected, as many as had been all season. Williams was tossed for charging the mound and manager Larry Rothschild for arguing that Martinez should have been tossed. Pitchers Dave Eiland, Cory Lidle and Tony Fiore were tossed for throwing at Boston batters, and coaches Bill Russell and Jose Cardenal, the acting managers at the time, went with them.

"When you get into a spitting contest and we keep missing the guy and whoever is managing the game goes out with the pitcher and that's the way it is," Rothschild said.

Greg Vaughn was ejected for protesting a seemingly wide called third strike in the seventh, his third strikeout of the night.

Martinez, who leads the AL in hit batters despite impeccable control, was unrepentant for his actions, claiming he was not trying to hit Williams. He said he didn't retaliate because it was more important for the Sox, who are battling for a playoff spot, to win the game.

[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Designated hitter Greg Vaughn argues with umpire Phil Cuzzi after being ejected from Tuesday's game for contesting a called third strike.

But he doesn't plan to forget what the Rays did.

"I asked a couple players on the bench and they said, "Let's just win the game,' " he said in an interview with a Boston TV crew. "But there will be some other day."

As for his feeling on the Devil Rays reaction?

"They can afford to do that stuff, they're not going anywhere," he said. "I can't afford to do things like that. I need to help this team down the stretch and do my work."

The Devil Rays accused Daubach of taking cheap shots and throwing "sucker punches" during the pileup on the mound -- "Damn right he did," Eiland said -- then he tried to retaliate.

Eiland hit him with a glancing blow in the third. Lidle, after allowing Daubach to ground out in the fourth, was ejected after throwing at Daubach in the seventh, and Fiore was ejected for hitting him two pitches later.

"The whole thing was that we thought Daubach was throwing cheap shots in the pile and you're going to protect your players and you're not going to let that happen," Rothschild said. "The only problems was that our pitchers kept missing the guy. And that was a problem."

photo
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Umpire Phil Cuzzi restrains Tampa Bay pitcher Tony Fiore after Fiore was ejected from Tuesday's game.
Said Red Sox manager Jimy Williams: "To throw at a man five pitches in a row, I just don't understand it."

Two Boston players went to the hospital as a result of the first brawl. Lou Merloni was being held overnight for a concussion after apparently being kneed in the head. Daubach was being X-rayed for a possible broken left elbow.

Several Devil Rays were complaining that there is a double-standard for Martinez, who has at times been labeled a headhunter and occasionally criticized for taking refuge in the dugout.

"It seems that there are some guys who can do whatever they want to do and it's all right," Vaughn said. "He throws 95-96 mph and he decides he wants to hit you and you have to stand there and take it? It's not right."

Rothschild protested vehemently that Martinez should have been ejected. "That was my argument," he said. "If they felt he was throwing at them, which apparently they didn't, but I did, then they have the right to eject him."

Martinez pitched a spectacular game. After hitting Williams, he retired 24 straight. John Flaherty singled to right-center to open the ninth, spoiling Martinez's bid for what would have been the first no-hitter in the majors this season and the first of Martinez's stellar career.

Until then, the Rays best bid for a hit probably came in the first when Miguel Cairo slapped a ground ball that seemed headed into left-center, but was gloved in spectacular fashion by shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.

With pinch-runner Jason Tyner breaking for second, Garciaparra was moving toward the bag, reversed field and gloved the ball, then threw back across the diamond to nail speedy Cairo.

Martinez had come excruciating close to a no-hitter before, throwing nine perfect innings at San Diego on June 5, 1995, but giving up a double to Bip Roberts to open the 10th.

"That game was so crazy," Rays shortstop Ozzie Guillen said, "that people forgot it was a no-hitter."

The first melee, which led to a 12-minute delay, started when Martinez, who leads the league in hit batsmen, hit Williams on the left hand with his fourth pitch. Williams took a few steps toward first, looking at his hand, then sprinted toward the mound.

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