The game was decided early when the Boston Red Sox offense exploded for eight runs off Baltimore Orioles starter Zach Britton(notes) in the first inning. But there were still plenty of battles to be fought as the two American League East rivals played out the remaining innings of Boston's 10-3 victory.
One of those battles turned physical.
It happened in the eighth inning. David Ortiz(notes), who had delivered the most damaging blow in the first — a rocket three-run homer to right field — stepped in against Kevin Gregg(notes), Baltimore's infrequently used closer who was in need a tune-up appearance.
The at-bat began with a hard fastball that was well inside, forcing Big Papi to hop out of the way. That drew a reaction from the 37,729 in attendance and a stare from Boston's designated hitter. Gregg's second offering was another inside fastball, though not as tight but a little higher. The next pitch was a third inside fastball, again forcing Ortiz to jump back to avoid being hit.
At that point Ortiz had enough. He took a few steps in Gregg's direction before catcher Matt Wieters(notes) and home plate Mike Estabrook cut him off. The Fenway Park crowd broke into chants of "Pa-pi! Pa-pi!" as both dugouts and bullpens emptied.
Within moments the situation was diffused by the umpiring crew, who elected to withhold on any ejections at that time.
The at-bat continued with the 3-0 pitch, which Ortiz offered at — that's a big baseball no-no — and popped up into center field. As Ortiz left the box casually, Gregg, who was upset about Papi swinging 3-0, made a motion to start running. Ortiz took exception to the gesture, deciding he'd rather hustle in Gregg's direction. The fight was on.
Both men would throw a number of punches in a short period of time before they were separated. Fortunately for both, none of them found their intended target.
"We are playing the game of baseball," Gregg said. "You got to go ask David what he was thinking. It's 3-0 and you are up seven runs and the opposing pitcher gets upset with you for hitting a weak fly ball and not running. If he thinks there's something with me saying that, than he's got other things he needs to figure out in this game."
Well, if I can interrupt Gregg's lecture to lecture him, the one thing Ortiz had no trouble figuring out was the intent of your three inside fastballs. In fact, you may recall one pitch earlier he was ready to take your head off. So while a 3-0 swing may not be the best baseball etiquette, it probably would have been in your best interests to let it slide that one time.
In the end it took the umpires 15 minutes to sort through the carnage and get the game back on track. Ortiz and Gregg were obviously both tossed, as were Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) and Orioles reliever Jim Johnson(notes).
The umpires also had to determine the fate of baserunner Josh Reddick(notes), who had been stationed at third base with one out when Ortiz flew out. Reddick did not tag up and score on the play. He actually tagged up and then joined the fight. He was ruled out.
The game was finished from that point without further incident. I would imagine both teams will be looking to put the episode behind them heading into Saturday's game, but it might not take a whole lot for this flame to be rekindled.