As with most significant baseball fights, today's Rays-Red Sox bench-clearer has a backstory.
On Wednesday, Coco Crisp went into second unnecessarily hard on a stolen base attempt, colliding with Akinori Iwamura. That displeased Rays' manager Joe Maddon, who later said, "I totally felt it was an intent to hurt our middle infielder."
Maddon and Crisp exchanged words. Crisp described his side of the discussion this way:
"I don’t know if he could hear what I was saying, but basically I was saying I did that on my own, don’t punish anyone else on the team. Don’t get Petey (Dustin Pedroia), don’t get (Julio) Lugo, don’t get AC (Alex Cora) sliding hard at second base. Get me with a pitch. If you want to retaliate with somebody, I’m the man."
So basically, he asked to get drilled.
On Thursday, James Shields accommodated him, hitting Crisp on the thigh to leadoff the second inning. As retaliatory HBPs go, it actually wasn't too severe.
But Coco will take no (expletive) from any Ray, even when he literally asks for it. Crisp hesitated for a moment after getting hit, then ditched his batting helmet and charged the mound. He side-stepped a right by Shields, then landed a glancing blow to the pitcher's shoulder...and that was probably the fight's lone highlight from Crisp's perspective.
Dioner Navarro soon tackled him. Then Jonny Gomes mounted Crisp enthusiastically, landing several punches. And then Iwamura appeared to land a few. And then Carl Crawford -- who isn't even supposed to feel like running right now -- streaked in from the outfield and threw a series of jabs.
Eventually Crisp, Shields and Gomes were ejected. They'll almost certainly face suspensions. Crawford might, too. Later in the game, both he and Iwamura were drilled by Jon Lester. The game featured five total HBPs.
Here's more on Crawford's role in the fight from the AP game recap:
Crawford didn’t deny that he may have pulled Crisp’s hair.
“There was a lot of stuff,” he said. “It could have been. There was a lot of pushing and shoving at the bottom.”
The game's other carnage included a Kevin Youkilis-Manny Ramirez dugout altercation ("I think they were just exchanging some views on things" said Terry Francona), a strained wrist for Jacoby Ellsbury, and a possible knee-tweaking or hamstring issue for Ramirez. Back to the AP recap:
Ramirez’s right knee appeared to buckle when he took a pitch from Dan Wheeler in the seventh. Ramirez continued to flex his leg after drawing a walk before leaving for pinch runner Kevin Cash one batter later.
We might see as many as seven or eight players miss time as a result of the various incidents that took place during this game. Several of those players are universally-owned in fantasy leagues, too.
Lost in the mayhem was the fact that Lester won for the fourth time this season. He struck out five, walked no one, and lowered his ERA to 3.50. Also, 25-year-old Chris Carter got the first and second hits of his Major League career. He'll now be returned to Triple-A:
Carter was told by Francona after the contest that he'd be optioned back to the PawSox, making room for Brandon Moss to rejoin the team and fill a spot on Boston's radically changing outfield depth chart.
This is already a brutally long Closing Time, and we've only mentioned one game. Onto the bullets...
• Homer Bailey went 6.1 innings in his first start for the Reds in 2008. He allowed four hits, five runs (two earned), and four walks. He struck out only one batter, and didn't really give you any obvious reason to add him in mixed leagues.
• Jon Rauch and Ryan Franklin both had blown saves in the second game of the Washington-St. Louis doubleheader. Franklin earned the save in game one, though. Franklin only threw 16 pitches on the day, and he hadn't pitched since June 1. Kory Casto went 4-for-6 with three walks in the doubleheader. With Ryan Zimmerman on the DL, Casto is of interest in NL-only leagues.
• Alexi Casilla had yet another nice day at the plate while batting second for Minnesota: 3-for-5, one run, one RBI.
• BJ Ryan blew a save in spectacular fashion, giving up a pinch-hit upper deck bomb to Jason Giambi in the ninth. "A terrible pitch at a terrible time," Ryan called it. That's two consecutive blown saves for him. With Jeremy Accardo (forearm) on the DL, Scott Downs figures to be next in the Toronto closing hierarchy.
• Jose Contreras had another useful start (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K), but it was against Kansas City so he only gets partial credit. Contreras is now 6-3 with a 2.76 ERA, and he's held opponents to two runs or less in six consecutive starts.
• Milton Bradley had his usual ridiculous night: 3-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored, two RBIs, and a steal.
• Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones hit his 400th career home run on Thursday against Florida. He also went 4-for-5 and raised his average to .418. On June 5. After 251 plate appearances. Hmmm.