Devil Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir said all he wanted to do was establish his fastball on the inside part of the plate.
The umpires believed he was doing something else.
So with one out in the fourth inning Monday night and Kazmir with a no-hitter, the left-hander was ejected after hitting Boston's Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar in consecutive at-bats, prompting a near brawl as both benches emptied.
That came a half-inning after Red Sox starter, and former Hernando High star, Bronson Arroyo hit Aubrey Huff and Tino Martinez.
Kazmir's ejection was the turning point as the Red Sox hit four home runs off Tampa Bay relievers in a 7-3 victory at Tropicana Field that clinched Boston's playoff spot.
But according to Rays manager Lou Piniella, it was unfair. Kazmir was warned after hitting Ramirez. Piniella wondered why Arroyo was not warned after hitting Martinez.
"They said they gave (Kazmir) a warning so they felt that they made the right judgment by evicting the pitcher," said Piniella, who also was ejected. "Myself, I thought it was poor judgment. The kid had a no-hitter. Certainly after a warning, he was not trying to hit Millar or anybody else."
"A couple of pitches got away from me," Kazmir said. "It was no intention or anything."
But there were consequences.
Huff left with a bruised left knee and is day to day. And the Rays were shell-shocked by Boston's five-run fifth that erased their 2-0 lead and included Ramirez's 43rd home run. The 458-foot blast off Jorge Sosa, longest at the Trop this season, landed on the roof of the Batter's Eye restaurant in centerfield.
Kazmir was having his way with the Red Sox. He struck out six of his first 11 batters and was consistently throwing in the high 90s.
Arroyo gave up Julio Lugo's run-scoring double in the second and Rocco Baldelli's sacrifice fly in the third. That, however, was sandwiched between the plunkings of Huff and Martinez.
Arroyo, who has hit a majors-high 20 batters, said it was not intentional.
"At first I didn't think anything of it," he said. "But after looking back at the inning, hitting Huff, who is their veteran leader, did not look very good. I tried to go up and in on Tino but ran it in too far."
Piniella wasn't buying.
"After Tino got hit, if they wanted to give a warning, that's when it should have been given," he said. "It was obvious he was throwing at him."
Whatever, Arroyo said, "I figured somebody on our team was definitely getting hit in that inning."
"No, not at all," Kazmir said. "You can look at previous at-bats. I was trying to throw inside. I had a no-hitter going. Why would I want to hit somebody on purpose?"
But crew chief Gerry Davis said he believed Kazmir intended to hit Ramirez and Millar.
"After a warning, if we feel a pitcher is intentionally throwing at a hitter, he and the manager are ejected," Davis said. "One of the other factors that goes into our thinking is that it's our job to stop things from escalating."
Johnny Damon's three-run home run off Sosa gave Boston a 3-2 lead. Ramirez's homer made it 5-2, and homers by Jason Varitek and David McCarty off Lance Carter made it 7-2 in the eighth.
"It's a good professional crew," Piniella said of the umps. "The only problem was that I thought they exercised poor judgment. That's my opinion. They're entitled to one. I'm entitled to one, too."