Sox dominate but O's get last word
Melee involving Ortiz incites foes while surprising his supportive teammates
BOSTON -- After a bench-clearing brawl between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles occurred Friday night at Fenway Park, after which four players were ejected, a few Red Sox players were watching on television the postgame comments coming from the visitors' clubhouse.
Following Boston's 10-3 victory, Orioles relief pitcher Kevin Gregg, who was one of the main culprits in the melee along with the Sox's David Ortiz, spoke his mind about the situation. When Red Sox players Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon heard Gregg's comments, they just shook their heads and walked away.
"We're not backing down. We're not scared of them," Gregg said. "Them and their $180 million payroll, we don't care. We're here to play the game and we have just as much right to play the game, and we're going to do everything we can to win."
The incident started in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Red Sox holding a commanding seven-run lead. During Ortiz's at-bat with one out and Josh Reddick at third base, Gregg threw three straight inside fastballs, and on the third one Ortiz started walking toward the mound, pointing at the pitcher. The benches and bullpens emptied, but the situation was brought under control and play resumed.
On the ensuing pitch, Ortiz popped out to shallow center field, and when he started down the first-base line, Gregg began pointing and yelling at him. Ortiz charged Gregg and the two began throwing punches. The benches and bullpens emptied again.
Finally, order was restored and Ortiz and Gregg were ejected, along with Saltalamacchia and the Orioles' Jim Johnson. No doubt, fines and suspensions will follow.
"It was a lot of craziness," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Sometimes it gets hot, guys get bothered and those things happen."
Ortiz is 6-for-17 with 2 homers, 3 doubles, 4 RBIs, 4 runs and 5 walks during this current homestand. Both homers have come in as many nights against the Orioles. He hit a three-run homer as part of Boston's eight-run first inning. His second hit of the night was a line drive that caromed off Baltimore reliever Brad Bergesen, who was forced to leave the game with a right forearm contusion.
When Ortiz stepped into the batter's box in the eighth inning, Gregg had a game plan.
"There are 17 inches on the plate and you've got to use all 17 inches," Gregg said. "If you don't, you're going to get your ass kicked every time you go out there. That's what we're doing and that's what I was doing when I was out there."
Gregg continued his explanation, saying the first offering wasn't too far off the corner of the plate, but he thought Ortiz jumped away like the pitch was at his head.
"The next pitch was a little further in, he didn't like it and he stared at me," Gregg said. "I'm still going to go in and try to pitch in there because I'm not going to let him lean over the plate like he did to Bergy and line a ball right back up the middle, or he's hitting stuff off the wall. He's really comfortable in there, and the place to get him out is by pitching him in, so I'm going to pitch him in."
Gregg said he was upset that when Ortiz popped up, he didn't run it out.
"It's 3-0 and they're up seven and I think there are some ethics to this game, some guidelines that you have to stay within, [so] run. You hit an easy fly ball, you have to run the bases," Gregg said. "Apparently, he didn't like me telling him that stuff and he came out there. That's part of the game, and he has the right to come out there and I'm going to defend myself when he comes out."
Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, who had to leave the game after five innings for precautionary reasons due to a hyperextended left knee, thought both Gregg and Ortiz should have been ejected the first time in order to keep the situation from escalating the way it did, and now other players will be fined, too.
"I felt like [Gregg] should have been thrown out before any of that [expletive] even happened," Beckett said. "The rule is, if something like that happens and you leave the mound, you're automatically ejected. It wasn't handled that way and now we've got other guys probably looking at fines."
Beckett has been in similar situations as a pitcher. He was ejected, suspended for five games and fined for throwing at then-Angels slugger Bobby Abreu and causing a bench-clearing brawl in Anaheim in 2009. But Beckett thought Friday's incident with Gregg was completely different.
"There are two different circumstances here. I wasn't trying to hit a guy and it was one pitch. But when you go to the well three times, something's looking pretty bad," Beckett said. "I don't know why [Gregg] was trying to do that, but it was pretty obvious to me that it wasn't just, 'I'm trying to pitch you in.'"
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Beckett was then asked if he thought Gregg threw at Ortiz because of the offensive production the Red Sox have put up the last two games, including Ortiz's performance at the plate.
"I hope not. We're a good-hitting team and you just can't be hitting our [expletive] guys because we score a lot of runs," Beckett said. "It's how the game is played. Maybe they saw something they didn't like, or whatever, but if it's because we scored eight runs in the first inning and then they're going to start throwing at our [expletive] guys, it's going to be a long year."
Gregg said he isn't about to back down from the Red Sox in any circumstance.
"They're going to whine and complain about it because they think they're better than everyone else, but no, we have just as much right to pitch inside as they do," he said.
Ortiz is normally one of the last players to leave the clubhouse after the game, but he was the first this time around. While he made a quick exit, his teammates supported him.
"He's nice to everybody," said teammate Dustin Pedroia. "Obviously he was upset, that's why that happened. I was actually watching the ball, and I looked down and there's two humongous guys going at it. In that situation, you just try to support your teammate and try to break it up. That's pretty much it."
"[Gregg] obviously said something to David, because David's not the kind of guy who just, you know, something had to have set him off."
The teams are back at it (maybe literally) Saturday night at Fenway Park.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.