New York catcher Francisco Cervelli was in the middle of much of the action Tuesday night during the Yankees' 5-2 win — not all of it in a positive way.
Cervelli homered off John Lackey in the fifth inning and emphatically clapped his hands upon reaching home plate. What happened next was just another chapter in the rivalry, regardless of which side you want to believe.
Lackey hit Cervelli with a first-pitch fastball to begin the seventh inning, touching off a bench-clearing incident that saw no punches thrown but plenty of tone-setting glares.
The Red Sox right-hander insisted he did not try to hit Cervelli, but admitted to making an effort to "knock him down."
"I was definitely not trying to hit him. I was trying to knock him down, for sure," Lackey said. "You can go look to see where he stands in the box. You've got to get him off the plate a bit … I was definitely trying to move him back."
Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia stepped in front of a barking Cervelli and guided him up the first-base line. Saltalamacchia said he told Cervelli there was no intent. That doesn't mean the Sox didn't take note of the home run celebration.
"He's done a lot of that stuff. He's an excited player," Saltalamacchia said. "He likes to get excited, that's fine. As far as the clapping goes, it might have been too much. You don't show anybody up, you play the game the way you play it and you've got to stay within your boundaries and not show anybody up.
"We sure as heck don't do it so we don't expect them to do it. Like I said, that's kind of the way he's always been."
Although Lackey and Saltalamacchia insisted they were just working inside, several Yankees were peeved with the scenario. CC Sabathia, who had just completed his six innings of work, needed to be restrained once the benches broke free. New York pitching coach Larry Rothschild was ejected.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who would be ejected arguing a call in the ninth, was unclear as to why Rothschild was tossed, but felt as if Lackey's purpose behind the pitch was plain to see.
"He got drilled in the back after he hit a home run. I don't know," Girardi said. "Maybe [it was a response to Cervelli's home run celebration], but it's an emotional game. I don't understand why he got hit. It's part of the game."
Saltalamacchia admitted that it looked bad from Boston's end of things. He also echoed the lack of desire to put a man on in a tight ballgame. Still, he was not entirely pleased with the showing by Cervelli, who also made a point of pumping his fist emphatically after a big strikeout to finish the bottom of the seventh.
"That's the kind of guy he is, he's real emotional," Saltalamacchia added. "When he gets on base, after every strikeout he pumps his fist. It's the type of player he is. I've got no problem with that whatsoever.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's excited to win, he's excited for his guys to do well, but at the same time you've got to respect the pitcher on the mound. Certain things I think go too far. To me that thing at home plate, he was excited, he got a home run. Second of the year. Good for him."