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Tim O

Tim O’Sullivan: Red Sox and Rays take us out to the brawl game

Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who replaced manager John Farrell following Farrell's ejection, throws his hat as he argues with umpire Jeff Kellogg, left, after benches cleared when Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price hit Mike Carp with a pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Friday, May 30, 2014.  Lovullo was ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who replaced manager John Farrell following Farrell's ejection, throws his hat as he argues with umpire Jeff Kellogg, left, after benches cleared when Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price hit Mike Carp with a pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Friday, May 30, 2014. Lovullo was ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Yankees will always hold a special place in our … what’s the opposite of heart? Despising the New York pinstripes is part of our heritage here in New England. If given the option, I always pick, “What team do you most like to see lose?” as the security question for online accounts, and the answer is always, “Yankees.”

I may have to change that answer now, and not just because security probably gets compromised when details are published in newspapers. The Tampa Bay Rays have replaced the Yankees as Fenway’s leading villains.

Don’t misunderstand. No one should stop rooting against the Yankees. The names Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone still make me cringe and mutter curses (not about the Bambino, the four-letter kind). But after all the batters hit and benches cleared in recent years, the Rays stir up even more visceral feelings of sports hate.

There’s little doubt the Boston players despise Tampa more than any other team. David Ortiz literally declared war on Tampa’s David Price after he drilled Ortiz with a pitch in Friday’s game/latest installment of the feud. Price denied it, but the prevailing belief is that Price was exacting some payback for Ortiz hitting

two home runs against him (plus staring/showboating after the second one) in last year’s playoffs.

“It’s a war. It’s on,” Ortiz told reporters after the game. “Next time he hits me he better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more.”

Heck, Friday’s game marked the second time in a week the two teams have publicly expressed their disdain for each other. Last Sunday, Tampa’s Yunel Escobar swiped third with an 8-3 lead, which could be viewed as breech of baseball’s unwritten rules. The Red Sox thought so and started barking at Escobar from the dugout. Escobar upped the barking to mad dog finger pointing, Jonny Gomes raised the stakes higher by charging in from left field and the benches proceeded to empty.

Maybe the same thing would have happened if one of the Yankees stole a base with a five-run lead, or if CC Sabathia had plunked Ortiz. But there are no maybes for the Red Sox and Rays. It’s become personal between these teams.

Sure, the Sox and Yankees had a bench-clearing incident last August when Ryan Dempster treated Alex Rodriguez like a carnival game, throwing at him four times and hitting him once. There may have been some personal feelings involved there, but no one likes A-Rod. Dempster was not the only person who felt like Rodriguez deserved to be drilled for all the scandal and buffoonery he’s brought down on the game.

The last Red Sox-Yankees altercation before that was back in 2004 when Jason Varitek gave A-Rod a glove facial. Boston and Tampa have had at least a half dozen incidents during that time.

It’s not just the bench clearing and bean balling that have pushed the “don’t call me Devil” Rays into the villainous lead. Tampa has been involved in more meaningful games against the Sox in recent years than the Yankees. The last playoff heartbreak for Boston came when the Rays won Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS. In September of 2011, Tampa won six of seven against the Sox as Boston collapsed in fried chicken and beer and the Rays made a miracle run to the wild card. And then there was last year’s ALDS. The Yankees and Red Sox haven’t met in the postseason since 2004.

Maybe you’ll never change the answer to your security question. But just to be sure you have all the facts about the Boston and Tampa rivalry, here’s a quick look at the trail of bad blood between these two teams.

June 11, 2013 – Tampa Manager Joe Maddon called Boston pitcher John Lackey a “bad teammate” after Lackey plunked Matt Joyce and the benches emptied. Lackey had reportedly looked up to Maddon when the two were in Texas together, and Lackey takes pride in being a good teammate, so the barb was pointedly personal.

May 25, 2012 – After several attempts, Boston’s Franklin Morales drilled Luke Scott on the knee. Scott had become a target after he called Fenway Park “a dump” earlier in the year and told MLB.com what he didn’t like about Red Sox fans: “Just their arrogance. The fans come in and they take over the city. They’re ruthless, they’re vulgar, they cause trouble, they talk about your family, swear at you. Who likes that?”

June 5, 2008 – The dugouts emptied with bad intentions after Tampa pitcher James Shields hit Coco Crisp. Shields and Crisp took some wild swings at each other. Gomes, then with the Rays, hammered Crisp while he was on the ground, as did Carl Crawford. In the end, eight players were suspended.

March 27, 2006 – Boston’s Julian Tavarez received a 10-game suspension for slap punching Joey Gathright after a close play at the plate in spring training.

April 22-24, 2005 – Five batters were hit in the first two games of this series and punches were thrown in the third game. Bronson Arroyo started things in that third game when he hit Tampa’s Aubrey Huff. Lance Carter then threw behind Manny Ramirez, who hit the next pitch for a home run. Carter followed that up by throwing at Ortiz’s head, which led to a rumble and six ejections.

May 5, 2002 – After Tampa pitcher Ryan Rupe hit Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand in the first inning, Trot Nixon’s bat somehow “slipped” out of his hand in Rupe’s direction later in the game. Sox starter Frank Castillo also retaliated by hitting Rany Winn. Both Castillo and Nixon were suspended.

August 29, 2000 – The one that started it all. Pedro Martinez hit Tampa leadoff hitter Gerald Williams with the fourth pitch of the night, Williams charged the mound and dropped Martinez with a right, and the brawling began. Greg Vaughn challenged Martinez to meet him in the parking lot after school, err, the game, but Pedro didn’t bite.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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