BOSTON — The burning question Saturday is whether the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will put their differences aside and play baseball, or if Fenway Park quickly will become the host venue for Fight Night.
Both sides seemingly understand there’s tension in the air.
“I think it’s clear that there’s a lot of emotion that plays out in these games and in series with Tampa,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Saturday’s game. “We’ll see what evolves here tonight, but our focus, and my focus particularly, is how we go about and execute tonight to win a ballgame. My concern is with our players and making sure we protect one another.”
Rays starter David Price, who drilled David Ortiz with a first-pitch fastball in the first inning of Friday’s game, said following the contest he’s “sure” the bad blood between the Red Sox and Rays will continue, though it remains unclear to what extent. Ortiz’s postgame remarks also seemed to suggest the teams won’t be meeting up for a couple of beers anytime soon.
Farrell’s main gripe after Friday’s game — in which he, bench coach Torey Lovullo, third base coach Brian Butterfield and starter Brandon Workman were ejected — was how the umpires handled the madness. The Red Sox skipper had a chance to sleep on it, but even though he was much calmer in his questioning Saturday, it’s clear he still is having a hard time making sense of why things unfolded the way they did.
“The operative word is to what extent was there intent viewed by the umpire,” Farrell said. “It’s interesting to read the comments postgame, where (the umpires) were made aware of tension and given a heads up by the league. So that would indicate that there’s something already existing. As much intent that was behind that pitch that hit David Ortiz, you can make the case that the ejection should have happened immediately.”
Expect the umpires to be on their toes Saturday. Then again, that probably should have been the case Friday, too, given Sunday’s bench-clearing incident at Tropicana Field.
Bring your boxing gloves just in case.