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Red Sox-Rays rivalry bleeds into stadium speakers, social media

The last two series between the Red Sox and Rays have included a bench-clearing incident, including on May 30 at Fenway Park.

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

The last two series between the Red Sox and Rays have included a bench-clearing incident, including on May 30 at Fenway Park.

There have been six ejections and two bench-clearing incidents in the last two series between the Red Sox and the Rays.

The AL East rivalry has grown so intense in recent years that Major League Baseball sent the umpires a memo warning about the bad blood between the teams before their last meeting in May.

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Now, the heated rivalry continues with a three-games series in Florida starting Friday.

After their last meeting, Red Sox starter Brandon Workman wound up suspended for six games after he and three of his coaches, including manager John Farrell, were ejected, and David Ortiz and David Price swapped verbal jabs after Ortiz was hit by a Price pitch and fourth-inning skirmish ensued.

Things have even gotten chippy between the social media teams and stadium sound booth operators, though neither side was willing to talk about how they extend the rivalry beyond the field or who handles social media and music decisions.

After dugouts cleared when Jonny Gomes confronted Yunel Escobar for apparently breaking an unwritten baseball rule and the Rays handed the Sox their 10th consecutive loss on May 25, the sound system at Tropicana Field blasted “Sweet Caroline” following the final out.

To mark the Sox’ ninth straight loss the day before, the song choice when the game ended was the Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9.” Not exactly an acceptable move from the folks at the Trop, Fenway Park’s DJ T.J. Connelly tweeted a few days later.

Fenway Park responded by playing children’s tunes — the Barney theme song, John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith, She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain — during the Rays’ batting practice less than a week later. It was actually quite a change from the usual protocol.

“I wasn’t out there. At least they were playing something. Normally, they go crickets on us a lot,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said before the May 30 game. “Then they bring out the organ music to really entertain us at some point. If they actually did play the Barney music that’s kind of an upgrade for them, actually.”

The Red Sox don’t play music during opponents’ batting practice in Fenway Park, something the Rays take personally and have started reciprocating when the Sox are at Tropicana Field.

It certainly hasn’t stopped the players from getting creative when figuring out how to get their pregame playlists played.

Pitcher Clay Buchholz’s resourceful tactic was the same one former Rays player B.J. Upton employed at Fenway two years ago. Upton, now with the Braves, dragged an extension cord out of the visitors’ dugout and set up a boombox behind the batting cage to cut the silence.

It didn’t last long.

The boombox music was overwhelmed by Fenway’s organist, who cranked it up over the sound system to spoil Upton’s efforts.

The organizations’ social media teams haven’t pulled any punches, matching the musical antics of the rivalry.

Shortly after the end of a messy Rays win in Fenway almost exactly a year ago, their official team Twitter account poked fun at the Green Monster’s old-school way of changing the standings and the scoreboard.

The win put the Rays in first place in the AL East, but the Red Sox didn’t miss a beat, calling out the organization’s struggling attendance numbers.

There have been at least seven bench-clearing blowups between the two clubs, dating back to Aug. 29, 2000, when Pedro Martinez hit Gerald Williams with the game’s opening pitch and the dugouts emptied.

Two players, Gomes and Burke Badenhop, have been on both sides of the rivalry. Gomes, then in a Rays uniform, was in the middle of the brawl started when Coco Crisp swung on James Shields on June 6, 2008, even taking a shot at Crisp in the pile. Two years ago, Badenhop, then a pitcher for the Rays, drilled Dustin Pedroia in the back during the sixth inning, which eventually led to both sides again flooding the field, though no punches were thrown.

Both teams now occupy the bottom two spots of the AL East standings, with the Rays in fourth place and the Sox last. They meet again Friday, and fans are eager to see what will happen, especially with Price on the mound for the Rays.

But don’t forget to keep an eye on Twitter.

Red Sox-Rays rivalry timeline

Rachel G. Bowers can be reached at rachel.bowers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @RachelGBowers.
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