After five relatively boring innings, things got heated in the bottom of the sixth, when Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey hit Matt Joyce in the back. That didn’t go over well, with both players exchanging words. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Yeah, that was until Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia decided to restrain Joyce for no apparent reason (it’s not like he was rushing the mound or anything).
The result: All hell broke loose and fans saw a benches-clearing brawl, whether they wanted to or not.
Once both teams had returned to their respective dugouts, Ben Zobrist, who coincidentally had to get in between Joyce and Saltalamacchia before the all-out brawl began, hit a double that might have scored his teammate. But third base coach Tom Foley went out of his way to hold Joyce on third.
I’m unsure, but the best guess would be that manager Joe Maddon didn’t want to deal with any potential repercussions a retaliation could bring, like Joyce sliding feet-first and spikes-up into Saltalamacchia for example.
As good as that sounds to Rays fans, myself included, it’s not the right way to handle things, especially against a Red Sox team that will stoop to extremely low levels in an attempts to injure opponents. Believe me, their play is dirtier than the water in Boston Harbor.
The smart handling of this incident carried over to the Rays’ post-game interviews as well, with Maddon saying that he always thought Lackey was a good teammate, but that hitting Joyce was a very poor decision. Joyce himself called the play “a bush-league play”, an assessment many will probably agree with.
While retaliation in the final two games seems unlikely given the circumstances (tight AL East race ring a bell?) and possible consequences, one thing remains certain: This series will be unpredictable, thus making it a must-watch.