Sox KO Orioles; tempers flaring
Where’s Michael Buffer when you need him?
The only person who seemed to be missing from the bench-clearing brawl that erupted in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’ 10-3 victory over the Orioles last night at Fenway Park was the fight announcer, with microphone in hand, bellowing his trademark, “Are you ready to rumble?’’
The Red Sox succeeded in scoring a technical knockout with a haymaker of a first inning in which they erupted for eight runs on seven hits to knock out Baltimore’s Zach Britton after two-thirds of an inning.
It was all the buffer Josh Beckett needed to pick up his eighth win of the season after going just five innings. Beckett (8-3, 2.27 ERA) departed as a precaution after he slipped on the mound and mildly hyperextended his left knee in the fifth inning.
But that served as the undercard to the main event: a heavyweight brawl between Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg (6 feet 6 inches, 230 pounds) and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (6-4, 230).
Although Ortiz was not available after the game, Gregg met with the media in the visitors’ clubhouse and defended his actions while taking a shot at the Sox.
“I think we showed them we’re not backing down, we’re not scared of them, them and their $180 million payroll, we don’t care,’’ Gregg said. “We’re here to play the game, we have just as much right to play the game here, and we’re going to do everything we can to win.’’
The fireworks erupted when Ortiz came to the plate with one out and one aboard in the eighth and took umbrage at the three straight inside pitches from Gregg.
“Ortiz, the place to get him out is in; you’ve got to pitch him in,’’ Gregg said. “The first pitch wasn’t too far off the corner, and he jumped away like it was at his head. The next pitch was a little bit further in, he didn’t like it, he stared at me. I’m still going to go in there and try to pitch in there.’’
Gregg’s third pitch, a 93-mile-per-hour sinker, came close to hitting Ortiz on the hip.
“You go to the well three times, something’s looking pretty bad,’’ Beckett said. “I don’t know why they were trying to do that, but it was pretty obvious to me that it wasn’t just ‘I was just trying to pitch you in.’ ’’
Countered Gregg: “They’re going to whine and complain about it because they think they’re better than everybody else, but now, we have just as much right to pitch inside as they do.’’
Ortiz stomped out of the batter’s box and pointed at Gregg, prompting both benches and bullpens to empty.
Chaos broke out after Ortiz popped to center. Gregg motioned at Ortiz to run down the line, prompting plate umpire Mike Estabrook to eject the Orioles pitcher.
“I think there’s some ethics to this game, guidelines you got to stay within,’’ Gregg said.
“You hit a lazy fly, you’ve got to run the bases. Apparently he didn’t like me telling him that stuff and he came out there. That’s part of the game. He has the right to come out there, and I’m going to defend myself if he comes out.’’
Ortiz, who was trotting down the line, stopped, then charged the mound. Gregg threw a right cross that missed and Ortiz returned with an uppercut that also whiffed.
Gregg and Jim Johnson were the Orioles’ ejections; Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were ejected for the Sox.
“I feel like [Gregg] should’ve been thrown out before any of that [stuff] even happened,’’ Beckett said.
“The rule is that happens and you leave the mound, you’re automatically ejected. But it wasn’t handled that way and now we got other guys probably looking at fines.’’
The inning ended when Josh Reddick, who hit an RBI triple to center, was doubled up at third for abandoning the base path when the fight broke out.
Britton, who defeated the Sox, 4-1, April 26 in Baltimore, had pitched at least five innings in 17 previous starts.
That was before the Sox made short work of him.
The Sox sent 13 men to the plate, and Britton departed after allowing a run-scoring single to Jacoby Ellsbury in his second time up.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter summoned righthander Brad Bergesen from the bullpen. Britton threw 42 pitches, 22 for strikes. Bergesen threw three innings of scoreless relief, leaving with two outs in the fourth after Ortiz’s comebacker bounced off his right forearm.
Dustin Pedroia ignited the first-inning eruption with a sharply-struck single up the middle.
Adrian Gonzalez drew a walk and Kevin Youkilis drove in the game’s first run with a grounder past Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Ortiz came to the plate with two men aboard and brought out the whuppin’ stick, driving a ball to the Reddick section of the bleachers in right that made it 4-0.
Reddick’s solo shot in Thursday’s 10-4 romp highlighted a season-high six-homer night for the Sox.
But the Sox weren’t done against Britton, who walked Jason Varitek and allowed a single to Marco Scutaro.
Darnell McDonald drove in both with a double to left.
When Ellsbury drove in McDonald for the seventh run, Britton’s night was done.
Pedroia, the first batter Bergesen faced, reached on an error by Hardy. Gonzalez then singled to left to score Ellsbury, making it 8-0, before Youkilis grounded to third to end the inning.
It was all the run support Beckett needed, but the Orioles scored three runs on three hits, including Derrek Lee’s leadoff homer to left in the fifth.
Beckett allowed three runs on seven hits. He walked two, struck out three, and threw 68 pitches, 50 for strikes before handing it over to Matt Albers, who started the sixth.
Albers retired the first six batters he faced, recording a season-high four strikeouts.
Pedroia tacked on another run with his 10th homer of the season, a solo shot to left off Chris Jakubauskas, giving the Sox a 9-3 lead.
Albers, Dan Wheeler, and Scott Atchison combined for four innings of scoreless relief.
Asked if he felt like the frustrations in the eighth inning were a result of the Sox’ eight-run first inning, Beckett said, “I hope not. We’re a good hitting team and you can’t just be hitting our [expletive] guys just because we score a lot of runs. That’s how the game should be played. It may be something totally different or maybe they saw something they didn’t like or whatever.
“But if it’s just because we scored eight runs in the first inning and they’re going to throw at our [expletive] guys, it’s going to be a long year.’’
Sounds like fighting words. Are you ready to rumble?
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.