Full moon Friday. Lots of howling Saturday.
The Red Sox and Yankees took their century-old conflict to a new level yesterday. Brushback pitches flew, tempers flared, benches emptied, a Yankee starter left with an injury after a fistfight with a Sox groundskeeper in the Yankee bullpen, and Don Zimmer, a 72-year-old Yankee coach (and former Sox manager) wound up on the ground with a bloodied nose after charging Pedro Martinez.
Oh, and Roger Clemens and the Yankees beat Pedro and the Sox, 4-3, to take a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven Hardball Harvest that has officially taken this ancient rivalry to a new and ugly level. If you’re keeping score at home, the Red Sox are now 9-15 in Pedro’s career starts against the Yankees.
Sox manager Grady Little said, “When this series began everyone knew it was going to be quite a battle, very emotional, with a lot of intensity, but I think we’ve upgraded it from a battle to a war.”
“A whole lot of testosterone flying around out there,” Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon said.
Things started to get out of hand in the fourth inning when Martinez was getting roughed up by Yankee hitters. After Hideki Matsui’s ground-rule double put the Yankees ahead, 3-2, Martinez threw a pitch behind Karim Garcia. The pitch grazed Garcia’s shoulder and the outfielder had some words for Martinez. Plate umpire Alfonzo Marquez warned both benches, taking away any chance of Clemens retaliating without risk of ejection.
“There’s no question in my mind that Pedro hit him on purpose,” said Yankee manager Joe Torre. “He was probably frustrated with the fact that we hit some balls hard . . . I didn’t care for that.”
The next batter, Alfonso Soriano, grounded into a double play. Garcia slid hard into second baseman Todd Walker and more words were exchanged. Coming out of his own dugout, Yankee catcher Jorge Posada yelled at Martinez and Martinez twice pointed to his own head, then at Posada - a clear threat.
Manny Ramirez led off the bottom of the inning. A 1-and-2 pitch came in high, but hardly inside.
“After looking at it on the video, I don’t think it was that close,” admitted Little.
“The pitch was actually over the plate I think,” said Clemens.”
Ramirez responded by cursing at Clemens and walking toward him with his bat in his hands. Clemens cursed back. As both benches and bullpens emptied, Zimmer tore across the field ready to pounce on Pedro. Remember that Zimmer almost lost his life when a pitch hit him in the head a half-century ago. The Sox ace shed the portly coach easily, stepping back and tossing Zimm to the ground.
“I’m angry, but I was more concerned about Zimmer’s health,” said Torre. “Zimm was very upset . . . Zimm is fiery. These people here in Boston know that.”
After order was restored, Ramirez struck out. From his heels. Zimm watched from the bench with a Band-Aid on the bridge of his nose. After the game, Zimmer left Fenway on a stretcher and was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center via ambulance.
Clemens got more revenge in the sixth when the Yankees put two men on with nobody out. The 41-year-old Rocket, possibly pitching the final game of his 20-year career, struck out Nomar Garciaparra on three pitches and got Ramirez to ground into a double play. It was Clemens’s final pitch of the night.
“It was a courageous six innings to pitch,” said Torre. “The emotion of the whole thing really drained him.”
Martinez didn’t give up anything after the fourth-inning fracas, but the damage was done. Good as he is, the Yankees appear to be in his head. As a Red Sox, Pedro is 8-9 against the Bronx Bombers. Martinez and Clemens are lined up to meet again if this goes seven, and you know it will.
The late innings generated little scoring, but more chaos.
Jose Contreras, whom the Yankees signed last winter when they outbid the Red Sox (prompting Larry Lucchino’s infamous “Evil Empire” remark) came into the game in the seventh and shut down the Red Sox just as he did in New York.
Veteran closer Mariano Rivera, a man with four championship rings, came on to start the eighth and got the Red Sox, 1-2-3.
Before the Sox came to the plate in the ninth, while the Rally Karaoke Guy was doing his thing on the big board in center field, there was a fight in the Yankee bullpen involving, among others, right fielder Garcia, reliever Jeff Nelson, and veteran Red Sox ground crew member Paul Williams. Posada - who was in the middle of things all night - raced 380 feet to the wall to offer assistance. When it was over, Garcia had a cut on his left hand and was replaced by Juan Rivera. Williams was led out of the pen by police.
Baseball executive vice president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson said he thought the umpires did a good job, but did not rule out the possibilty of fines or suspensions.
After the skirmish, the Sox went down in order again. Six up, six down for Rivera. Fenway was quiet for the first time all night.
A bad night for the Red Sox. And not just because they lost.