ST. PETERSBURG — What started as a night of good vibes with a ceremony for retiring Yankees star Derek Jeter ended with hot tempers and bruised feelings in the Rays' 6-1 Tuesday win.
Both benches and bullpens emptied in the bottom of the eighth after New York reliever David Phelps threw too close to Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier in obvious retaliation for Rays rookie Steve Geltz hitting Jeter in the top of the inning.
Though no punches were thrown, the extracurricular activity on the field — plus accusations by Yankees manager Joe Girardi that the Rays didn't know how to pitch inside, and the Rays adamantly denying any intent — tarnished what had been a positive night.
"It did for me,'' Rays manager Joe Maddon. "I was upset. I did not want anything to detract from the evening. I thought our ceremony before the game was outstanding, I thought the gift was great, we played well, we have a chance to win the game, the last thing you want to do is detract from the evening. And from my perspective in the dugout, I thought it did put a little bit of a nick into it.''
The Rays hit four batters, including Jeter on the left elbow pad, during a three-game series last week in New York then Jeter again Tuesday on the left hand.
"I don't know what they expect,'' Girardi said. "They hit five of our guys in four games, we're going to be (ticked). … We're not pincushions. … I'm tired of my guys getting hit, and where they're getting hit."
But Maddon said there was nothing to it, certainly not intent.
"I understand their frustration and why they were upset, I get it,'' he said. "But it's part of the game. Truthfully, truly, it was not intentional.''
Girardi was ejected after getting irate after Geltz hit Jeter and the umpires issues warnings. Geltz was surprised by Girardi's reaction: "He should know that's not intentional. It's an 0-2 count. I'm trying to get him out. I'm not trying to hit him. That's Derek Jeter. I'm not trying to hit Jeter."
Phelps and bench coach Tony Pena were tossed after the pitch to Kiermaier, which sparked the scrum, although Rays reserve Sean Rodriguez seemed to be the only one really worked up.
Until that point, it seemed the Rays were pleased to pay homage to Jeter.
First in the ceremony, which featured video highlights and then presentation of a check to his foundation, a kayak and a framed Don Zimmer jersey.
Then in the game, where they honored Jeter with the hustling style of play he was known for.
The Rays (74-78 with 10 to play) scored one run when Kiermaier raced home from second on a bouncer to first the Yankees misplayed, one run on a safety squeeze bunt after a heads-up advance by newcomer Nick Franklin and two on a flyout to centerfield, the first time that happened in franchise history.
Starter Jake Odorizzi was not particularly sharp and did well to get through six innings, allowing one run on five hits and a walk and working out of trouble twice to get his team-leading 11th win.
Kiermaier reached on an error in the fifth, went to second on a walk then raced home from there when Yankees starter Michael Pineda couldn't handle Ben Zobrist's bouncer toward first.
They hustled their way to more in the sixth, when Franklin doubled, took third when ball four to Matt Joyce bounced away — the original out call overturned on a replay challenge — and scored when Yunel Escobar executed the squeeze with a well-place bunt.
They rallied for four in the seventh, capped when pinch-hitter Wil Myers crushed a ball to the right of center that Jacoby Ellsbury dived to catch, with Evan Longoria tagging up to score from third and the less-than-speedy James Loney from second. Girardi first got upset then because he was certain Loney left early and couldn't get the umps to agree.
"An interesting night,'' Maddon said.
DIRK SHADD | Times
Retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter raises his cap to salute the crowd at Tropicana Field as he is honored by the Rays before Tuesday's game. The ceremony included gifts of a donation to his charity, a sea kayak and a presentation of a Don Zimmer jersey by Zimmer's widow, Soot. 4C