When Franklin Morales' first pitch to Luke Scott sailed behind his rear end, the initial thought was that Morales was trying to hit him. Two of Morales' next three pitches backed Luke away from the plate. Any doubt as to Morales' intentions were removed when he finally succeeded in nailing Luke Scott on the right knee, setting off a bench-clearing dust-up along the 1st base line.
Tensions were at a 'fever pitch', and many wondered how the Rays would respond. The game was still in the top of the 9th inning, and Fernando Rodney was preparing to close out the game and give the Rays a victory in the series opener. Rodney's first two pitches were waaay out of the strike zone, but he settled down and retired the Sox in order.
Should Fernando Rodney have drilled a Boston hitter? Though I was pretty peeved that Morales pegged Scott on a purposely placed pitch to the patella, I'm a glad that cooler heads prevailed and the Rays got out of there with a victory on 7 runs, 8 hits, and more importantly, zero injuries or ejections. As Rodney prepared for the bottom of the 9th, I wondered what would have happened he had drilled a Red Sox player? For one, it would have given the Red Sox a much needed base runner, putting a Rays victory in jeopardy. It would have fired up the testy Fenway Park mob. More importantly, the Rays' 9th inning fireman would have been ejected and potentially suspended. Joe Maddon would have been forced to bring in another reliever to close the game out against the meat of the Red Sox order. My desire to exact vengeance was outweighed by my desire to see a 1-2-3 9th inning, and I'm thankful that the latter played out.
Has the incident been laid to rest, or will there be additional retaliation this weekend? In my opinion, the Rays should go about their business and avoid getting caught up in Boston's foolishness. The Rays' 'business' entails collecting enough wins to qualify for the playoffs, and nothing should derail that business plan. A lot of things could happen if Rays appear to throw at a Red Sox hitter, and most of them are bad. For one, a player could get injured. We don't want that to happen to any player, whether it is a Ray or a Sock. The Rays already have almost half of the roster on the DL. They can't afford another injury. Along those lines, the umpires will be watching the remainder of this series very closely. If a Rays pitcher hits someone in the back, it is possible that the pitcher could be suspended. They can't afford to lose any pitcher for any period of time, however brief. The bullpen was forced to get 12 outs last night, and with two more games against the Boston lineup (and Matt Moore scheduled to pitch Monday), it is important to keep all hands on deck. Avoiding another melee could also prevent Bobby Valentine from further firing up his troops in an effort to build team unity.
Therein lies the difference between Joe Maddon and Bobby V. Maddon keeps things loose and has everyone dressing like nerds, for goodness' sake. Take a look at the photos. It is clear that the Rays have all bought into the organization's team concept and process. Bobby V, on the other hand, is trying to built team unity by inciting bench-clearing brawls. Bobby V and his coaches showed more emotion in the scuffle than the Red Sox players, and that speaks volumes. Don't expect to see any more fireworks this weekend. Joe Maddon is thankfully too smart to stoop to Bobby Valentine's level.