BOSTON — Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon wasn’t hiding his feelings about what happened in the ninth inning. In his eyes, it was as clear as the Rays’ power display against Boston starter Jon Lester.
Matt Joyce hit his second grand slam in six games and Elliot Johnson had a two-run shot to lift the Rays to their third straight win, 7-4 over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night in a game that saw the benches empty in the ninth inning.
The Rays pounding of Lester was only the subplot to a feisty ninth.
Boston reliever Franklin Morales threw behind DH Luke Scott with the first pitch of an at-bat and hit him in the hip area on a 3-1 count. Scott was restrained by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the benches and bullpens emptied. There was a lot of pushing and shoving along the first-base line that carried over behind home plate before order was restored.
“That’s truly somebody flexing their muscles on the other side and they need to put them in their back pocket and understand they can hurt their own team for something like that,” Maddon said. “To be really carelessly incompetent on their side and truly try to hit someone and throw behind somebody and hitting them in the leg for all the wrong reasons eventually they can get their own guys hurt. That was ridiculous. It was absurd, idiotic. I’ll use all those words.
“Our guys got it. We had every reason to be totally into the push-back right there. We didn’t start anything. We don’t start stuff. We’ll finish stuff, but we don’t start it.”
Maddon was asked if it was possible things would continue in the rest of the series.
“That’s not up to us,” he said.
Carlos Pena, inserted into the leadoff spot after a miserable slump, added a solo homer for the Rays.
Adrian Gonzalez had an RBI double for Boston, which lost for just the fourth time in 14 games.
But it was that ninth inning scrum that was the topic afterward.
Someone in the Rays’ clubhouse turned down the music and a handful of players watched the TV as Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine spoke. Closer Fernando Rodney mockingly booed.
“We thought it was dirty and we did the best we can to protect ourselves,” Pena said. “We saw one behind his back and almost hit him, and then the last one hits him. It’s crazy when you see things happening and it actually does. Everyone in our dugout knew it was coming and when it did, it was like: ‘There it is.'”
The Red Sox (22-23) failed to move above .500 for the fourth time this season. It’s the latest into a season they haven’t gone over .500 since 1996 when they didn’t do it until late August.
“We were all out there. They were out there,” Valentine said of the scrum. “I liked the spirit of the guys going out there. Salty was great. I had a little adrenaline going and the guys had some adrenaline going, so that’s good. Nothing wrong with that. … Maybe it was the ghost of Fenway past remembering that he bad-mouthed all our fans and our stadium or something, just directing the ball at his leg.”
Scott called Fenway Park “a dump” during spring training, but later tried to explain that it was a hard place to work.
“I can imagine it’s a great place for someone to go watch a baseball game and the nostalgia of it,” Scott said. “I made a comment, as a player it’s a difficult to place to get your workout. The end, that’s it.”
Boston pitching coach Bob McClure and Ben Zobrist of the Rays seemed to be the two most heated, but they were separated. When things cooled down, Boston DH David Ortiz patted Scott on the back and walked him partly to first. A few fans and Rays players were yelling at each other near Tampa Bay’s dugout when the players left the field after the incident. B.J. Upton seemed to be the one most involved with the fans near the end of the Rays’ dugout.
“It crossed the line,” he said of a comment, saying he was unsure if it was racial. “I felt like it did. It takes a lot for me.”
Alex Cobb (2-0), making his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Durham to take Jeff Niemann’s spot in the rotation after the right-hander broke his right fibula, held Boston to two runs and three hits, while walking four and striking out two in five innings.
Rodney got his 15th save in 15 chances.
Lester (3-4) took the loss, giving up a season-high three homers.
Trailing 1-0 in the third, the Rays took the lead on Joyce’s slam into the Red Sox bullpen, his second in 13 at-bats. The other came in a 5-2 win over Atlanta on May 19, also Cobb’s start. Tampa Bay had loaded the bases on a single by Upton that was sandwiched by walks to Pena and Zobrist.
Johnson and Pena homered three pitches apart in the fourth, increasing the Rays’ lead to 7-1. Johnson’s went into the Green Monster seats and Pena, hitting leadoff for the third straight game after going 0 for 17, hit his into the first row of seats down the right-field line, just past Marlon Byrd’s leap into the stands.
Pena has gone 4 for 12 with two homers and four RBIs since being moved to the top of the order.
Lester, who had allowed just four homers all season before Friday, was tagged for seven runs and six hits, walked three and struck out four in four innings. He had held opponents to three runs or fewer in four of his previous five starts.
Boston cut it to 7-2 on Gonzalez’s RBI double off the Monster, but Cobb got Kevin Youkilis to bounce into an inning-ending ground out with runners on second and third. It was the last batter he faced.
Byrd had an RBI single and Mike Aviles a sacrifice fly, narrowing the gap to 7-4 in the sixth.
The Red Sox had taken a 1-0 lead on Youkilis’ RBI single.
NOTES: Scott looked like he was endearing himself to the fans a bit before the game near Tampa Bay’s dugout during batting practice, tossing at least a half dozen balls to fans, joking with a number and signing autographs for many. During his last trip to Boston, when the Rays were the opponent for the season-opening series of Fenway Park’s 100th year, Scott was booed nearly every time he came to bat. … Boston RHP Josh Beckett (4-4) faces David Price (6-3) on Saturday night.