The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees remain among the most storied rivalries in all of sports, but the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays have quickly emerged as the most heated rivals in MLB today.
The two sides were at it again last night, as the Rays squeaked out a 2-1 victory in a make-up game in Boston. In the process, they jumped the Red Sox in the standings to claim a half-game lead in the AL East.
The game was not without controversy, as the Rays got the benefit of what looked to be a blown call by home-plate umpire Jerry Meals, costing Boston what would have been the tying run in the bottom of the eighth.
Red Sox manager John Farrell wound up getting tossed for arguing, while Meals admitted to missing the call after the game upon watching the replay, according to an article from USA Today.
UPDATE: Tuesday, July 30, at 9:03 p.m. ET by Doug Mead
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bays refused to apologize for benefiting from the blown call by Meals. According to MLB.com's Sam Strong and Bill Chastain, Rays players instead said that calls like that balance themselves out.
Via Strong and Chastain:
"[Meals] called him out," Rays catcher Jose Molina said. "I don't care what Boston thinks about it. That's the game. Sometimes it's going to go your way, sometimes it's going to go our way. Just leave it there and turn the page. How many times has that happened to us? It is Boston and everybody makes a big deal. Stop crying."
Rays outfielder Sam Fuld chimed in as well.
"We just had to swallow that pill and move on," Fuld said. "If [Meals] calls him safe there, it's 2-2. The game isn't over. If Ben had a ball called there, it's not like we would have won automatically. You have that feeling like you totally got gypped and we would have won no matter what, but that's not the case. It's still anybody's game. We've been on both sides of that."
--End of Update--
It was just another chapter in the increasingly contentious relationship between these two teams. The two clubs' official Twitter accounts only fanned the flames after the game.
Whoever was manning the Rays' Twitter feed tweeted a quick reminder to the Fenway Park scoreboard operator shortly following the game that the AL East standings were no longer correct:
That didn't sit well with whoever was manning the Red Sox Twitter account, though, and he or she essentially said the Red Sox own Tropicana Field:
Red Sox fans often outnumber the Rays fans in Tampa Bay where the team ranks 29th in attendance, and on top of that the Red Sox have gone 4-2 at Tropicana Field so far this year and were 5-4 last season.
It was a good rebuttal, and just one more log on the fire of what has already been an eventful last couple of seasons between these two teams.
Back in June, the benches cleared in Tampa when John Lackey drilled Matt Joyce after he crushed a long home run off of him in the first and just missed another in the second inning before grounding out.
The whole thing seemed to be provoked by Lackey, but it just goes to show how easily these two sides have been set off as of late.
Back in May of 2012, benches cleared again when Luke Scott was hit by a pitch after being thrown at three times unsuccessfully in the at-bat.
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 it seems like only a matter of time before these two teams get into a legitimate brawl.
One thing is for sure: With the way these two teams are playing right now, and with just a half-game separating them, that three-game series in September will be must-see baseball.