ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Rays manager Joe Maddon was coaching with the Angels when John Lackey had some of his best seasons. The two are friends and have been for a while.
But Maddon had some harsh words for Lackey on Tuesday.
It started in the first inning when Matt Joyce hit a long home run off John Lackey. When he came up in the second inning, Joyce took a big swing at a 3-and-0 pitch and hit the ball deep into the seats down the line but foul.
Joyce flipped his bat like he hit a home run and watched the ball. Lackey looked askance at Joyce and when that inning ended, several of the Rays shouted at Lackey from the dugout.
“They’ve got some guys who like to yell, yeah,” Lackey said.
In the sixth inning, with two outs and nobody on, Lackey drilled Joyce in the back with a fastball. It was a classic retaliation pitch: two outs, nobody on, fastball in the back.
Joyce pointed at Lackey and when he took a step toward the mound, Jarrod Saltalamacchia got in his way. Mike Carp got in there, too.
The benches cleared, but no punches were thrown. Lackey then allowed a double by Ben Zobrist and was taken out of the game after 93 pitches.
As Lackey walked back to the dugout, Joyce yelled at him from third base. Third base coach Tom Foley stepped in front of Joyce to maintain the peace.
Lackey said it was not intentional, as did John Farrell.
“Trying to come in there get him off the plate,” Lackey said.
After the game, Maddon came out swinging against Lackey.
“So he intentionally hit him when he did, there’s no question in my mind that he did, and the sad part is that I’ve always considered Lackey a good teammate, but right there he can get one of his own players hurt,” Maddon said.
“I really did sense among the group of Red Sox that they were totally not into that moment because they knew it was inappropriate to hit Matt on purpose, and furthermore because one of them can get hurt. So that’s being a bad teammate as far as I’m concerned. In the past, he was always a good teammate. That was really a bad moment for him tonight.
“I’ve always considered him a friend and I still want to consider him a friend, but when it comes to baseball and us playing them, that was a really inappropriate gesture on his part. … He could have been ejected immediately.’’
Said Joyce: “I don’t know if he was so upset that I swung 3-0. It was more so the bat drop after I hit it. For me, I never really feel like I show anybody up. I never try to pimp anything or anything like that. I felt like I got a really good pitch to hit and missed it and was upset. But to hit somebody for that, I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Joyce said it was a “pretty bush league move” by Lackey to hit him.
Umpire Bill Hallion warned both sides and no retaliation followed by the Red Sox.
Maddon was a bit over-the-top with his comments. But the Rays are a team that looks for any scrap of incentive.
One thing for certain: Among the players, the Red Sox and Rays are far more of a heated rivalry than the Red Sox and Yankees are these days.