ST. PETERSBURG — All you have to know about how Tuesday night went for the Rays was that their most excitement at the plate during the 2-0 loss to Boston was the confrontation manager Joe Maddon and leftfielder Carl Crawford had with umpire Bob Davidson.
Their heated arguments led to both being ejected, the situation escalating rapidly after Crawford disagreed with the strike called on the first pitch of his fifth-inning at-bat, and their apparent contact with Davidson could lead to disciplinary action from MLB officials.
"If anybody should be getting suspended, it should be the umpire," Crawford said. "I don't feel like I did anything wrong with defending myself. He's the one who got all defensive real quick. Normally when they get defensive like that it's because they know they made a mistake."
Maddon said he didn't expect any suspensions, acknowledging "there was definitely some intimacy about the whole argument" with Davidson but that it was mutual. "He was definitely rubbing me also," Maddon said. "It's hard to distinguish who exactly encountered or created the first rub."
Crew chief Tim Tschida said Crawford was ejected because he kept getting closer to Davidson after being told to "back off" and that Maddon was tossed immediately afterward procedurally since managers are not allowed to leave the dugout to argue ball-strike calls.
Much, but of course not all, of the Tropicana Field crowd of 24,310 took up their cause by booing subsequent calls.
Then again, they didn't have much to cheer about as the Rays were held to just one hit — a fourth-inning single by Willy Aybar — by Red Sox starter Jon Lester and three relievers and wasted a tremendous eight-inning effort by James Shields, who allowed only four hits, the costliest a two-run double by David Ortiz in the third, and retired the last 16 he faced.
"We just have to continue to pitch like we are and figure out a way to score a couple runs," Maddon said.
The lack of offense has been a theme for most of the past month, but it has been highlighted against Boston's improved pitching. In the two games, the Rays have totaled one run and seven hits and are 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
It didn't help, obviously, that Davidson was calling what Maddon called a wide strike zone much of the night, a major reason the Rays struck out 12 times.
"It's hard to hit the ball when you've got a guy who's good like Lester and he's getting pitches 5 inches off the plate," Crawford said. "We're not making excuses, but it is what it is."
Crawford disagreed when Davidson called strike one during his fifth-inning at-bat and got madder when Davidson told him it was "a good" pitch. "I'm thinking to myself, if the plate was in the other batter's box then it's a good pitch," Crawford said.
Crawford and Davidson began jawing, and Crawford admitted he may have accidentally made contact "but he came at me." When Maddon arrived, he appeared to make contact as well, trying to get between the two. Word from MLB is expected within a couple of days.
The Rays still have the best record in the majors (32-14) after the pair of losses and, while the second-place Yankees are still five games out, the fourth-place Red Sox are just 6½ back going into tonight's series finale.
"If they sweep us, they sweep us," Shields said. "But I think we have a pretty good chance. We have a pretty good pitcher (Matt Garza) on the mound and hopefully at least we can gain a game back here."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.