Let no one again suggest that the bad blood between the Red Sox and Yankees is mere front-office posturing or a thing of the past, even in the season of My Dinner with Manny.
Not after 72-year-old Yankee coach Don Zimmer, the former Red Sox manager, ended up being taken to the hospital in an ambulance last night for precautionary tests after he charged, with his hands raised, at Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, who shoved Zimmer to the ground in front of the Sox dugout. That was the most shocking moment of a Fenway Park melee that reached its boiling point when Sox slugger Manny Ramirez took exception to a fastball from Yankee ace Roger Clemens that was at eye level - but over the plate - and started toward the mound, bat in hand, in the bottom of the fourth inning.
And let no one again question, after yesterday’s 4-3 Yankee win over the Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, whether Clemens can harness his emotions.
Not after the future Hall of Famer kept his head while those all around him - including Martinez in one rage-inducing episode when he plunked Karim Garcia - were losing theirs in a reprise of his 1999 ALCS duel with Martinez that had far more of the white heat of a heavyweight title fight than the original, which had been billed as such.
“I’m not sure what happened,” said Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, who returned after missing the first two games with a concussion and had three hits and scored a run, “if Pedro tried to hit him or what, but it doesn’t look good. For all intents and purposes, they had a right to be upset.”
The Yankees now lead the best-of-seven series, 2 games to 1, Mariano Rivera setting down the last six Sox batters before 34,209 fans hushed by the Yankees’ second straight win. And while Martinez may be aces, he has been trumped more times than he has won against the Yankees, who are now 15-9 in games started by Martinez in the six years he has been with the Sox.
“I think when this series began, everyone knew it was going to be quite a battle, it was going to be very emotional, there was going to be a lot of intensity,” Red Sox manager Grady Little said. “But I think we’ve upgraded it from a battle to a war.”
The night took its ugliest turn in the middle of the ninth inning when a part-time member of the Red Sox grounds crew, identified by Sox officials as Paul Williams, who teaches mentally disabled children, became involved in a fight in the Yankees bullpen with reliever Jeff Nelson. As Boston police poured in to break up the fight, Yankees right fielder Garcia, who had vaulted over the low wall, appeared to injure his right hand throwing a punch and left the field bleeding. Juan Rivera took Garcia’s place in the ninth.
Clemens, who hit bottom during his Red Sox incarnation when he was ejected from a playoff game in Oakland 13 years ago - the day of the Eye Black and Ninja Turtle shoelaces - did not come unglued after a 10-minute stoppage of play in the fourth during which both benches and bullpens emptied.
Instead, he struck out Ramirez with a 95-mile-an-hour fastball when play was restored, then two innings later struck out Nomar Garciaparra and shattered Ramirez’s bat on a rally-killing double play. That will rank as his last act on a Fenway Park mound - barring a sudden change of heart that at 41, he doesn’t want to retire after all.
“This man is something,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said after the game. “He has shown us over the years he’s been here that he can rise to the occasion.
“Even though he didn’t throw 100 pitches [he threw 96], I think the emotion of the evening drained him more than the pitch count. The veins were popping out of his neck.”
Clemens left with a 4-2 lead, the Yankees having come off the mat against Martinez, who couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead, just like he couldn’t hold a 3-0 lead the last time he faced the Yankees here on Aug. 30.
Martinez was touched for a run in the second inning when he gave up a double to Jorge Posada and a run-scoring single to Garcia - both of whom would later be on the receiving end of Martinez’s wrath. He gave up a home run into the Monster seats in the third inning to Derek Jeter, the first home run by a righthanded batter off Martinez all season.
That tied the score at 2, Martinez having given away the 2-0 lead the Sox fashioned in the first, which began when Enrique Wilson - the Yankee that Ramirez took out to dinner last month on the weekend he didn’t play against the Bombers - botched Damon’s bouncer for what was generously scored as an infield hit. Todd Walker followed with a Wall-ball double that struck the scoreboard, and with the crowd loudly serenading Clemens (”Roh-ger, Roh-ger”), Ramirez followed a strikeout of Garciaparra with a line single to center that scored both runners.
Martinez lost it in the fourth, when he walked Posada, gave up a single to Nick Johnson, and an RBI double to Hideki Matsui, the first hit the Japanese outfielder had in 12 at-bats against Martinez. With first base open, Martinez threw a pitch that hit Garcia in the back shoulder, just above the numbers. Garcia said a few words to Martinez, catcher Jason Varitek put himself between Garcia and the mound, and plate umpire Alfonzo Marquez issued a warning to both teams that any pitcher throwing at a hitter would risk ejection.
“No question in my mind Pedro hit him on purpose,” Torre said. “Second and third, nobody out, a lefthanded hitter, a righthanded hitter [Soriano] on deck. He can thread a needle any time he wants. He was probably frustrated with the fact we hit some balls hard.”
Hostilities flared one batter later, when Garcia slid hard into second base and beyond, upending second baseman Walker. The players had to be separated, and on his way to the dugout Garcia and Martinez shouted at each other. Martinez also could be seen exchanging words with Posada, pointing at his head as if to suggest that he might be next, and players emerged out of both dug outs as if prepared to rumble.
Ramirez, the first batter in the bottom of the fourth, fell behind in the count, 1 and 2, then ducked when Clemens’s next pitch was head high but over the plate. Ramirez immediately stepped toward Clemens, who came off the mound, and both benches and bullpens emptied. Zimmer, Torre’s bench coach, made straight for Martinez, who was behind most of his teammates, watching, and charged ready to take a swing. Martinez stepped out of the way, grabbed Zimmer, and threw him down.
Martinez spoke briefly with reporters on his way out of the clubhouse. He said he did not throw at Garcia deliberately. Asked if Zimmer had thrown a punch at him, Martinez said: “He tried. But I would never hit him. I could never do it. I was shocked.”
When order was restored, Martinez did not allow another base runner, retiring the last 11 in a row before giving way to Mike Timlin after seven innings.
Little, asked if he thought Clemens was throwing at Ramirez, said: “Manny thought so, but after looking at it on the video, I don’t think it was that close.”
Ramirez, who was chatty after his four hits in Boston’s Game 1 win, did not speak with reporters. Surrounded by more than a dozen media members, he sprayed on some cologne, put on his sunglasses, and said: “Excuse me.”
The Sox would not score again until the seventh, when reliever Felix Heredia walked David Ortiz to open the inning. Torre went to Jose Contreras, the Cuban defector. He gave up a single to Kevin Millar, which sent Ortiz to third. Ortiz scored the third run when Trot Nixon skidded into a double play, but after Bill Mueller worked Contreras for a walk, Jason Varitek fouled out to third.
John Burkett, who will face lefthander David Wells, will attempt to draw the Sox even tonight, though this game will still be much fresher than a memory.