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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Short memory helps Rays, Red Sox crank up rivalry

— Want a recipe for fun at the old ballyard?

Take two teams that have been lousy when they weren’t supposed to be.

Stir this into the pot: It’s Rays-Red Sox, with their delicious history of dust-ups.

Toss in that the Rays have sort of found themselves — walk-offs everywhere and now their first four-game winning streak with Sunday’s 8-5 victory to finish a three-game sweep of Boston.

Add this gravy: The increasingly desperate defending world champion Red Sox are a red, swollen mass, owners of the franchise’s first 10-game losing streak in two decades, back when The Curse hit to all fields.

Then marinate with hot sauce: The Rays’ flamboyant, nut shortstop, Yunel Escobar, and Boston’s red-hot poker: fiery former Ray Jonny Gomes.

Bake. Oh, baby, bake away.

It produced another Rays-Sox bench-clearer, this one in the bottom of the seventh inning of Sunday’s game at the Trop. Escobar was thrown out. Gomes was tossed. Sean Rodriguez, who again got the big hit, another three-run homer, also was ejected.

It happened this way: The Rays broke a 3-3 tie with a five-run seventh, beginning with that homer by pinch-hitter S-Rod. Then Escobar doubled in two runs to make it 8-3. A few moments after that, Escobar raced to third base, completely unmanned. It wasn’t a steal. It was scored as defensive indifference.

The Red Sox dugout was not indifferent. Some Beantown boys thought this constituted running it up. The idiots.

They ought to go sit on their $160 million payroll and dab their eyes with their World Series rings.

Quit crying.

Boston players began yelling at Escobar, who naturally, being Escobar, yelled back. Dugouts and bullpens emptied. From way out in left field, Gomes took off. Rays fans, it seems like yesterday that Jonny G. was your raging bull, storming from the Rays dugout to get at Boston’s Coco Crisp, way back in 2008.

That bottom of the seventh was too much for Gomer, who’d tied it at 3 with a pinch-hit two-run homer in the top of the inning. Now it was Rays up five, just like that. He aimed to revive his team. At first, Gomes jogged. Then he galloped like California Chrome. He reached Escobar. They shoved each other. I guess that passes for a baseball fight.

Gomes: “If he wants the bag, I’m not concerned about the bag at all. I wouldn’t have done it, but I have no problem with it. He can take a bag all he wants. But yelling at my dugout, pointing at my dugout, taking your helmet off, basically challenging our whole dugout. I have a problem with that.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell on Escobar: “We’re down five in the seventh. It’s somewhat of a gray area, when do you shut down the running game. Yunel is going to do some things that are somewhat unpredictable. That’s what precipitated it.”

Rays skipper Joe Maddon returning serve: “They took umbrage that Escobar stole third base with a five-run lead in the seventh. That’s not nearly as egregious as last year in the playoffs, when they had an 8-2 lead in the eighth. Ellsbury led off with a single and stole second base and they ended up beating us 12-2.”

We looked it up, Game 1 ALDS. Jacoby Ellsbury steals second after singling to lead off the eighth. Yeah, the Rays sort of recall that ...

You keep playing. You keep playing, especially if you’re the Rays, fresh from losing nine of 10.

And, yeah, nobody ever blows a five-run lead when these teams get together.

Why, you have to go all the way back to … Saturday. Boston blew a 5-0 first-inning lead and ended up losing to the Rays in 15.

By the way, the Red Sox scored two runs in the ninth to make it 8-5 and were a base runner away from having David Ortiz at home plate, representing the tying run, against the recently shaky Grant Balfour. Balfour got Dustin Pedroia to ground out to end it, but you get the idea.

The Red Sox didn’t.

It’s true enough that Escobar has been somewhat unpredictable in his career, occasionally doing moronic things, even against the Red Sox, like in 2012, when Escobar was with Toronto and in a game against Boston he wore a gay slur written in Spanish on his eye black. He earned a suspension. His Blue Jays manager: John Farrell.

But back to Sunday ...

“I didn’t think that what Yuni did was wrong,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. “I thought that it was just a baseball play. It wasn’t anything to throw in their face or run the score up.”

You keep playing.

“I understand it from their side because they’re going through a rough patch,” said Longoria, who had his second three-hit game in as many days, including his first homer since May 6. “Not but a week ago, we were in the same situation that they were in, trying to scratch out wins and figure out how the heck to do it. When you’re frustrated, things just tend to blow up.”

Here’s Escobar, through a Rays spokesperson: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”

No, it isn’t. The teams meet next weekend at Fenway. I love Rays-Sox, especially when they’re desperate.

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