Three Rays players, including two that never left the dugout, along with manager Joe Maddon, were ejected in the eighth inning for a balls and strikes argument that continued to escalate as the effects of perceived missed calls became more damaging to their cause.
The main point of contention for all involved was a borderline 3-2 pitch to Lance Berkman(notes) that was ruled a ball by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza. A pitch that would have ended the half inning with the Rays down only 2-0 if called how Maddon and reliever J.P. Howell(notes) saw it. This call is what led to Joe Maddon's ejection.
After listening to his hitters complain about a wide zone all night long, Maddon said he felt Howell was squeezed on that very pivotal pitch.
"There was wideness," Maddon said smiling. "And then there was narrowness."
Which was soon follwed by wildness and utter chaos.
After another questionable walk to David Freese(notes), Colby Rasmus(notes) would connect for a three-run homer off Howell, pushing the score to 5-0. Clearly frustrated by everything that had taken place over the past five minutes, Howell spiked his glove on the mound, and then spiked the new baseball tossed to him by Carapazza.
Seconds later, Howell's night was also over.
"He took it personal," Howell said of Carapazza. "If he can't take it, we're supposed to take it, but he can't take it. I know nobody ever cheers for them and they always get yelled at, and I know that must be frustrating. But the pitches I made, if I can make those pitches, you make a lot of money doing that, and you deserve that call. Especially when you do it twice to two great hitters. That's messing with people's careers, and that's why emotions fly. That's not right."
Teammates Elliot Johnson(notes) and David Price(notes) agreed with Howell. Both were ejected from their dugout perch for showering Carapazzi and his crewmates with their opinion on the strike zone and the handling of the aftermath.
"I was just trying to defend my teammate," Johnson said. "It just seemed like (umpire Dana) DeMuth came in from second base and it seemed like he kind of lost control of himself in that situation. I wasn't swearing at the man or name-calling or anything like that."
Demuth added later that he was glad the action settled down when it did, because he felt like the situation was headed towards even more ejections. He also stated Howell's actions would be reviewed to make sure he didn't bump Carapazza.
Quite a flurry of activity. Of course once the dust settled the Rays would rally for three in their half of the eighth to narrow the score down to where it ended, 5-3. I'm sure that only added further to the frustration that had already boiled over on the field.