John Lackey
Rays outfielder Matt Joyce was convinced that Red Sox pitcher John Lackey (pictured above) had beaned him on purpose. Wikipedia Commons

Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey is not known for shying away from confrontation, a fact that quickly became clear to Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Matt Joyce during Monday night’s clash between the division rivals.

Lackey hit Joyce in the shoulder with a fastball, prompting both teams’ benches to storm the field. Lackey claimed that he had merely been “trying to come in there and get him off the plate a little bit.” Unfortunately, Joyce and the rest of the Rays roster were not buying it.

“Honestly, I felt like it was a pretty bush league move,” Joyce said after the game. “I think it was very obvious.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon was equally convinced of Lackey’s motives. "He intentionally hit him when he did," he said. "There's no question in my mind that he did."

They may have a point. Joyce led off last night’s game with a home run off of Lackey, and nearly repeated the feat in his second at-bat. After working a 3-0 count, Joyce crushed a long foul ball into the right field bleachers, and then dropped his bat in obvious disappointment. The gesture appeared to anger Lackey, who was seen yelling toward the Rays’ dugout after getting Joyce to ground out.

When the combatants faced off again in the sixth inning, the situation was nothing short of volatile. Lackey’s fastball drilled Joyce in the upper back. Joyce flipped his bat, and took a few menacing steps in Lackey’s general direction. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia rushed to restrain the batter, leading to a shoving match and causing both teams’ benches to clear.

Luckily, the tense situation didn’t escalate to outright violence. Rays and Red Sox players engaged in some minor shoving, but no punches were thrown. When both sides had calmed down, home-plate umpire Tom Hallion issued warnings to both sides.

Ultimately, the bench-clearing incident was just a footnote in an exciting extra-inning battle. The Red Sox eventually prevailed in extra innings, defeating the Rays 10-8.