The first meeting between the two teams since the late May fireworks between the two clubs, in which tempers flared over the course of a week in which the teams, from Yunel Escobar challenging the whole Boston dugout to David Price throwing at David Ortiz to Price throwing at Mike Carp, which led to Ortiz going after Price to Brandon Workman (allegedly) throwing at Evan Longoria.
Multiple benches-clearing incidents. Multiple ejections. And one suspension to top it all off. Then a whole lot of running of mouths. Joe Maddon painting the Rays as the victim. Ortiz saying he lost respect for Price. Price coming back proclaiming he earned respect around the league for throwing at Ortiz, the ball he threw at the slugger being set to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
So many extra-carriculars yet so little to show for it Friday night — despite Price taking the hill — in the Rays 6-3 win over the Red Sox. Proof positive of how much things have changed.
In May, the Rays were playing bad baseball. They had fallen to the bottom of the American League. They were looking for a spark to ignite the team, to start a run.
Now they’ve been ignited. Tampa Bay is the hottest team in baseball. The Rays have won 26 of 37, closing within three games of .500 with Friday’s win. They’re four games out of a playoff spot, and just 7 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the abysmal AL East. Not needing to participate in the gimmick play-in game to make the postseason is well within the realm of possibility for Maddon’s club.
Their sights are set on the pennant race, not getting back at the last place Red Sox. There’s no need to lose Price for six games, and break the momentum he’s built (7-3, 1.88 ERA in his last 11 starts) by being suspended.
Likewise, the Red Sox have bigger fish to fry themselves. Teetering on the jagged edge of the pennant race (their chances are small, but you have to keep the door slightly ajar given how bad the AL is), the Sox can’t afford to toss away a game, or have guys get a mini-vacation via suspension.
Another dynamic is that the trade deadline is less than one week away. A suspension can only hurt a player’s trade value. One can only think that some veterans in the clubhouse — who would love to play for a team with better playoff aspirations — have that thought in the back of their mind. It doesn’t appear anybody is playing the Trot Nixon let’s-see-how-I-can-kill-my-trade-value game.
Time heals all wounds, fades all grudges. On the 26.2-mile course that is the MLB season, two months is more than enough time for circumstances to make a 180-degree turn. The once-belly-up Rays are a different baseball team, playing for different things. The Red Sox have items above tussling with their division rivals on the agenda.
Those who expected it were in for a disappointment. And those still waiting for it are going to be waiting for a while, because the latest Red Sox-Rays feud is history.