While David Ortiz was calling out David Price, and John Farrell was expressing his belief that the Tampa Bay lefty intentionally hit Boston's designated hitter with a first-inning pitch, in the visiting clubhouse the Rays' starting pitcher denied doing anything on purpose and manager Joe Maddon commended the umpires on the way they handled everything on an eventful night at Fenway Park.
“I thought it was a great game," Maddon said after the Sox walked off with a 3-2 win in 10 innings. "It was handled great on the field by the umpires, I thought. Well played on both sides, well pitched on both sides. We had some opportunities, not a whole lot. They came back and beat us, you’ve got to give them credit.”
The win was the Red Sox' fifth straight, but the final result became a second story once Price drilled Ortiz with a fastball in the lower back on the first pitch of their first-inning encounter -- and seemingly inflamed any animosity that the clubs carried over from Sunday, when a seventh-inning spat cleared the benches and resulted in a spate of ejections.
Based on that recent history, Price said he assumed the umpires would try to cut off a potential incident before it began, by issuing warnings to both sides before a three-game series even began. "Honestly," said the Rays' ace, "I figured it would be done before the game. With everything that’s went on, I figured the warnings would be passed out before that game, and it wasn’t the case.”
Because it wasn't, Price was not ejected when he plunked Big Papi with first base open and two outs. Farrell objected to the umpires' decision not to throw Price out of the game, and was quickly ejected himself. Particularly when Price acknowledged afterward that he was anticipating pre-game warnings, it could at least appear that he seized his chance to take a free shot at the Sox' biggest star.
But the lefty said he had no intent beyond trying to establish that side of the plate early on. And Maddon said the pitch had nothing to do with what happened last weekend in St. Petersburg.
“I’ve got to establish my fastball in," Price said. "I had six lefties in that lineup. It’s my favorite side of the plate to go to, so, gotta establish it in.”
“That’s an easy assumption, [that] what happened last week caused that, because I don’t agree with that," said Maddon. "It’s always going to be viewed from the perspective of the side. Of course, I’m going to defend the Rays, and the Red Sox are going to defend the Red Sox, whether it’s me, or the other manager, or it’s social media, or whatever.
"That moment was not precipitated by what happened last weekend.”
The manager said three separate times that Price hitting Ortiz was not related to what transpired last weekend -- leaving open the possibility that it could've been payback for a prior disagreement between the players, which would point to last year's ALDS as the source.
Before Friday, the last time Ortiz faced Price he pulled a long home run into the right field grandstands -- his second of Game 2 -- and lingered around the batters box while watching to see it if stayed fair before sailing into the seats. After that game, Price expressed his displeasure with what he deemed to be showboating. Then Ortiz was out of the Sox lineup when Price faced Boston in the previous series, so Friday was the first time they'd seen each other since those comments.
With that backstory, Price was asked after Friday's game if he could understand why Ortiz would be upset personally?
So the two homers in the ALDS had nothing to do with it?
Price offered no apologies for hitting Ortiz, but he did say he understood Mike Carp's frustration after getting a pitch off the elbow in the fourth inning. "I a hundred percent understand his frustration," the lefty said, explaining that before Carp came back to the plate for his next at-bat, he gave the first baseman a head nod "to let him know, 'my bad.'"
"I don’t know if I’ve hit anybody three times, and I might’ve hit him three times in probably less than 10 at-bats," Price said. "They’ve all been in the same region. I’ve extended apologies to him both times before. That’s not something I try to do. I had six lefties in the lineup today. I’ve got to be able to throw my fastball in.”
That pitch also cleared the benches and bullpens, though Price was allowed to stay in the game because in the judgment of the umpires he didn't hit Carp on purpose.
“[Crew chief Jeff Kellogg] told me that they were going to give me the benefit of the doubt, and they didn’t think that I meant to do it on purpose, and that they needed me to be a leader in the dugout after the inning to make sure that we keep our heads on straight," Price said. "I feel like we did that, and lost a tough game.”
“That was obvious that you’re not trying to hit Carp there," Maddon said. "Again, I thought the umpires utilized really good baseball judgment regarding how they handled it. After Ortiz was hit, they handled the rest of that really well.”
The Rays manager cited the struggles that have the two teams battling near the bottom of their division, and the sheer number of times they play each other, when explaining that the bubbling over of emotion is somewhat expected. He expressed a belief that the players do a good job of policing each other, though he recognizes that from a fan's perspective, Red Sox Nation is "appalled by our behavior tonight," while Rays fans are asking, "'What's the big deal?'"
And he said he thinks "there's a lot of respect flowing back and forth." But that was before he'd had a chance to hear what Ortiz had to say in the other clubhouse. So was his take on whether tempers run hot again this weekend.
“We’ll see how it plays out tomorrow," Maddon said. "There’s going to be no animosity from us to their side beginning of the game. We’ll see how it plays.”