Is Red Sox-Rays the Most Underrated Heated Rivalry in Baseball?
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports. Nobody will deny that.
However, in recent seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays and Red Sox have made headlines for a rivalry that has grown increasingly heated.
The Rays have only been a franchise since the 1998 season, but already they have a lengthy history of bad blood and on-field incidents with the Red Sox.
On Monday night, the benches cleared between the two teams once again. Matt Joyce crushed a home run off of Rex Sox starter John Lackey in the first inning, then just missed another in the second before grounding out. Lackey had some words for Joyce as he walked off the field.
Joyce didn't bite on whatever Lackey was saying then, but when Lackey drilled him in the back his next time up, the teams started to fight.
With that most recent incident in mind, here is a look back through the years at some notable incidents between the two teams.
August 29, 2000: Gerald Williams charges the mound on Pedro Martinez
This one dates back to when Tampa Bay was still known as the "Devil Rays." However, this memorable moment often pops up on a list of baseball's most unforgettable brawls.
It comes as no surprise that Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was in the middle of this, as he had a temperament on the mound to match his overpowering stuff.
When Martinez hit Tampa leadoff hitter Gerald Williams on the left wrist with the fourth pitch of the night, Williams charged the mound and caught Martinez with a solid right hook before the benches cleared.
This was the first of several altercations between the two teams during the game that led to eight different Rays being ejected.
Martinez was not ejected and went on to retire the next 24 batters he faced before John Flaherty broke up his no-hitter with a leadoff single in the ninth.
September 29, 2000: Roberto Hernandez waves goodbye to eliminated Red Sox
One month after the brawl, the Rays met the Red Sox again, this time with a chance to play spoiler and officially eliminate them from the playoffs.
Just 67-91 on the season coming into the game, Tampa Bay took an 8-4 lead into the ninth inning. While the Red Sox managed to scratch across a pair of runs, the rally was cut short when closer Roberto Hernandez struck out Trot Nixon to end the game.
Knowing full well the team had just been eliminated, Hernandez proceeded to wave goodbye to Nixon and the Red Sox from the mound as the Rays celebrated.
"They're going home," Hernandez said after the game, according to Sports Illustrated. "They don't have to worry about any playoffs now. They can stop watching now. Scoreboard's over. Goodbye."
May 5, 2002: Trot Nixon allegedly throws bat at pitcher, receives four-game suspension
After another heated series between the two teams, Trot Nixon walked away with a four-game suspension for allegedly throwing his bat at Rays pitcher Ryan Rupe.
Rupe had plunked both Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand in the first inning, so when Nixon's bat "slipped" out of his hand and in Rupe's direction later on in the game, it was deemed intentional.
Red Sox pitcher Frank Castillo received a five-game suspension for retaliating, but Rupe came away with just a fine and seemed genuinely upset he wasn't suspended.
"It looks cheap that they got suspended and I didn't if we're going head-to-head," said Rupe, via MLB.com. "I don't know why they would get suspended and I wouldn't.
April 24, 2005: Lance Carter throws at David Ortiz's head, benches clear
After the first two games of a three-game series saw five hit batters, emotions finally boiled over in the third game.
Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo hit Aubrey Huff in the first inning. An inning later, Rays starter Lance Carter threw a pitch behind Manny Ramirez.
Both benches were warned, and Ramirez proceeded to hit a home run on the next pitch Carter threw. Clearly frustrated, Carter threw at the next hitter, David Ortiz, nearly hitting him in the head.
Six players wound up ejected, and Red Sox starter Curt Schilling and Rays manager Lou Pinellla exchanged jabs in the press.
“Players on that team are saying, this is why we lose a hundred games a year, because this idiot makes us do stuff like this," said Schilling on WEEI radio after the game.
The next day, Pinella fired back on the radio himself, saying, “I have forgot more baseball than this guy knows," in reference to Schilling.
March 27, 2006: Julian Tavarez punches Joey Gathright following play at the plate
This rivalry has even managed to spill over into spring training, where Julian Tavarez walked away with a 10-game suspension after sucker-punching Joey Gathright following a play at the plate.
After a close play, Tavarez stood on Gathright's arm while he tried to get up, then slap/punched him in the face while he was still on his knees.
June 5, 2008: James Shields and Coco Crisp fight
Up until the 2008 season, the Rays had never won more than 70 games since coming into existence in 1998, but they took a huge step forward that season. For the first time, the Red Sox-Rays rivalry meant something in the standings.
The previous night, Coco Crisp had slid hard into second base and taken out Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, so Shields drilled him in response.
Crisp charged the mound, and after Shields missed with a big roundhouse right, Crisp managed to land a punch before the two benches converged on the scene.
May 25, 2012: Luke Scott thrown at three times before finally being hit
After being hit once in their previous game, it became clear Red Sox starter Franklin Morales was trying to hit Rays DH Luke Scott again on May 25.
The first pitch of the at-bat was behind him at 97 mph. That was then followed by consecutive fastballs well inside before Morales finally drilled him on the right knee.
The benches quickly cleared, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia grabbed Scott before he could get out to the mound.
No punches were thrown, but plenty of words were exchanged and a lengthy delay ensued, led mostly by both managers barking at one another.
This is a rivalry that shows no signs of cooling down, as evidenced by Monday's altercation. These two have quickly become as bitter of rivals as any in baseball today.
It may not be as storied as Cubs-Cardinals, Giants-Dodgers or Yankees-Red Sox, but there seems to be more bad blood between these two organizations than the aforementioned rivalries.
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