- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The Red Sox made their game the undercard so that Boston fans could enjoy Saturday night's hockey main event. But the Bruins will have to put on one helluva show in Vancouver to upstage the bizarre spectacle that took place at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon, when temporary insanity ran rampant in a ninth inning in which catcher Jason Varitek and closer Jonathan Papelbon were ejected.
One run scored after Pedroia's error, making the score 7-4. Cliff Pennington's double into the left-field corner scored another, and Varitek, enraged by what he viewed as missed pitches during a previous walk to Daric Barton by plate umpire Tony Randazzo, was ejected after going mask-to-face with Randazzo. Papelbon had also barked at Randazzo during the Barton at-bat.
"It's simple," Varitek said after the Red Sox went on to win 9-8 in 14 innings on J.D. Drew's walk-off hit. "I lost my cool on those things that happened in that inning that I felt like Pap had made some pitches."
He added: "You can't argue balls and strikes."
When Randazzo called a strike on the next batter, Ryan Sweeney, Papelbon gave the "now you call a strike" treatment to Randazzo, a message he conveyed both with his body language and apparently by saying something to the umpire before turning his back. Randazzo then stepped out from behind the plate and took a couple of steps toward Papelbon, who responded by barking his displeasure, and he too was ejected. When that happened, Papelbon charged toward Randazzo and may have bumped him as manager Terry Francona stepped between them.
After the game, Papelbon acknowledged he may have made contact with the umpire, but insisted it was incidental.
"I may have brushed up against him, but nothing like, you know, pushing him, or nothing to the point where, you know, I was trying to get physical with him by any means," Papelbon said.
Bobby Jenks replaced Papelbon and gave up a bloop single to Sweeney that put the go-ahead run on third base. But Jenks struck out Josh Willingham for the second out, bringing up Hideki Matsui. The Oakland DH swung at a two-strike pitch in the dirt, the ball rolling away from the plate as Jackson headed home for what would have been the go-ahead run. But Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had replaced Varitek, retrieved the ball and gunned a throw to first to end the inning.
The ejection was Varitek's fifth of his career, but the first for Papelbon.
"I probably overreacted a little bit," Papelbon said, "but you know it's hard to say that because I'm in the heat of the battle and all of a sudden I'm a base hit away from the game being tied up. Could I have done things or gone about things different? Of course. But in the heat of the battle, that's a lot easier said than done."
He said he has never been ejected at any level, amateur or pro.
"That inning was the culmination of a lot of things, man," he said. "Some bloop hits, just a lot of stuff that went on that inning that just boiled and boiled and boiled and kind of exploded for me. Do I wish I could have handled things a little better? Yeah, I do."
Nonetheless, Papelbon contended he did not do anything to warrant disciplinary action by the commissioner's office.
"I don't have any concerns," he said. "I'm not worried about it. I'm out there competing, man. I can't do anything about that. The league's going to come down on me the way they want to, whether they believe me or not, but I wasn't trying to maliciously bump him or anything. I haven't looked at the replay or anything. I haven't looked at any of the pitches I threw. It's all in the past."
Papelbon said he initially became upset because he didn't understand where the strike zone was.
"From my perspective," Papelbon said, "I had my back turned and did not turn around. (Randazzo's) got his hands up, and I'm not even talking to him. I was talking to (Saltalamacchia, the catcher). I said, 'Salty, hey come out here. I need to know where that's at.' I felt like some pitches I was not getting were strikes and I threw one that I felt like was a ball and then he called it a strike, and I more or less was trying to get Salty out here and say, 'Hey come talk to me, let's figure out this zone so I know how to go about this.' Because I had no idea what his zone was.
"I don't know, I guess he may have jumped to the conclusion that I was talking to him, and I felt like he threw his arms up in the air for no reason towards me, and then everything kind of unfolded the way they did. When he threw up his arms, and you know, started barking at me, I said, 'Tony, I'm not even talking to you. I'm talking to my catcher.'
"I guess he felt like I was coming back at him and I may have been showing him up, but I had my back turned after I'd been talking to Salty, because, like I said, I had no idea about how to go after the hitter because I didn't know what the (strike) zone was."
Umpiring crew chief Brian Gorman told a pool reporter he did not have any comment because the umpires had not yet filed their report.
"We believe that Joe Torre wants us to reserve all comments and questions should be directed to the league," Gorman said.
As executive vice president for baseball operations, the position to which he was named this winter, Torre is in charge of on-field discipline.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.