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Rays’ Kevin Cash rips ‘poor judgment, poor coaching’ of Yankees

A 5-3 Rays loss ends with an onfield confrontation, heated words from the Rays and the specter of retaliation.
Tampa Bay Rays pinch-hitter Michael Brosseau ducks away from a pitch from New York Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman during the ninth inning.
Tampa Bay Rays pinch-hitter Michael Brosseau ducks away from a pitch from New York Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman during the ninth inning. [ KATHY WILLENS | AP ]
Published Sep. 2, 2020|Updated Sep. 2, 2020

NEW YORK — Rays manager Kevin Cash lashed out at the Yankees after another game between the teams ended in heated exchanges over pitches thrown at hitters and raised the specter of retaliation.

Cash and the Rays were most upset when Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 100.5 mph fastball just above the head of Mike Brosseau, the final Rays batter in the 5-3 New York win.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Cash said. “It was mishandled by the Yankees. Certainly the pitcher on the mound. It was mishandled by the umpires. They hit Joey Wendle intentionally in the first inning. It was clear as day. Chapman comes in, he throws three different balls up and in. I get it — they don’t like being thrown up and in. But enough’s enough. We’re talking about a 100 mph fastball over a young man’s head. It makes no sense.

“It’s poor judgment. Poor coaching. It’s just poor teaching, what they’re doing, and what they’re allowing to do. The chirping from the dugout.

“Somebody would have to tell me, go pull the numbers, who’s hit who more? (The Yankees have hit more Rays, 19-14, in the three seasons under manager Aaron Boone.) I can assure you, other than three years ago, there hasn’t been one pitch with intent from any of our guys, period. Somebody’s got to be accountable.

“And the last thing I’ll say on it is I’ve got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour. Period.”

Both benches emptied after the final out and the teams seemed headed toward a fight, with the relievers running in from the bullpen before being stopped by the umpires, who had previously issued a warning to both teams, then ejected Cash.

Yankees players and Boone had a much less intense take, Boone saying there was “just some back and forth obviously the ball coming close to Brosseau there,” which he understood why they would be upset.

As for Cash’s threat of retaliation?

“That’s pretty scary comments,” Boone said. “I don’t think that’s right at all. But I’m not gonna get into it right now.”

Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu said Cash’s words spread quickly in their clubhouse and seemed “a pretty serious threat.”

Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees exchange words after the Rays' 5-3 loss. Both teams' benches received warnings from the umpires after Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman threw near the head of pinch-hitter Michael Brosseau during the ninth inning.
Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees exchange words after the Rays' 5-3 loss. Both teams' benches received warnings from the umpires after Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman threw near the head of pinch-hitter Michael Brosseau during the ninth inning. [ KATHY WILLENS | AP ]

The teams meet Wednesday night for the 10th and final time this season, all in less than a month. The teams have had a number of skirmishes over the past several years, including Aug. 9 at Tropicana Field when the Rays said the Yankees were chirping from their dugout throughout the game, and the Rays had the last word with a 4-3 walkoff win.

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Cash’s reference to the past incident was likely in September 2018, when Andrew Kittredge threw up and in at Austin Romine, prompting retaliation from CC Sabathia, who had hit a Rays batter the previous inning.

The ongoing issue seems to stem from the Yankees’ objections to Rays pitchers working them consistently inside, specifically to DJ LeMahieu. “I believe that is the root of all this,” Brosseau said. “And they made their point that they don‘t like how we’re pitching them.”

Chapman threw a pitch inside to each of the first two Rays in the ninth. Brosseau said he couldn’t say for sure what Chapman’s intent was against him, but it was “pretty frustrating” and if the Yankees did it on purpose “they made their point.” Also, that it was “definitely scary. ... A hundred at your head is something that will wake you up for sure.”

Chapman declined to speak to media.

Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, noting the constant chirping from the Yankees and singling out third-base coach Phil Nevin as the instigator, put the conflict in simpler terms:

“We don’t like them, they don’t like us.”

Wendle said he didn’t expect to be hit in the first by Masahiro Tanaka, but “I don’t think there was any question” it was intentional. He laughed off any pain from the 95.1 mph fastball that was Tanaka’s hardest pitch of the night, saying, “I didn’t really want to let that get under my skin. To me it was just kind of a sign that maybe we were under their skin a little bit. I’m not really sure why.” He said the Yankees’ objections to the Rays pitching inside was “unwarranted,” but was their prerogative.

Kiermaier had another theory, as the Rays had beaten the Yankees seven of the first eight times, and six straight, until Tuesday.

“I think this year, we have their number,’' he said. ’We’ve played very well against them, we’ve beat then time and time again. And maybe that frustrates them, I don’t know.’'

The game was tied 2-2 when the Rays messed it up, three runs scoring on a sloppy play in the sixth.

The Yankees had two on when Kiermaier tried to make what would have been a highlight-reel diving catch of a Gio Urshela liner, but came up short and the ball skipped by him, with two runs scoring. They got a Willy Adames’ relay throw home that sailed high, and though pitcher Rich Thompson backed up the play and made a good toss to catcher Michael Perez, Urshela somehow avoided the tag, and replay confirmed it.

The Rays still have the American League’s best record at 26-11, and a 3 ½-game division lead over the Yankees with 23 games to play.

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