The Rays and Red Sox exchanged fisticuffs on Sunday afternoon, but it was Sean Rodriguez who delivered a decisive punch with his pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning, putting Tampa Bay ahead for good en route to its straight victory.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Sean Rodriguez and Yunel Escobar got the big hits, then they got ejected.
The Tampa Bay Rays got rowdy with Boston, sweeping a three-game series and sending the Red Sox to their 10th straight loss, 8-5 Sunday.
Rodriguez connected for a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the seventh for a 6-3 lead. Later in the inning, Escobar hit a two-run double and then took third on the first pitch to Jose Molina, easily making it without a throw on a play scored as defensive indifference.
Escobar got into a yelling match with the Boston dugout and had to be restrained just before both benches and bullpens emptied. The sides gathered around third base for a short session that mostly involved pushing and shoving.
"They just kept yelling and they weren't stopping. It irritated Yuni," Rays third base coach Tom Foley said. "They took offense to what we thought was fine."
"Yuni just had enough. He's an emotional guy and I guess he could only take so much. They called him out, he talked back to them and the next thing you know, benches cleared," he said.
Boston outfielder Jonny Gomes was tossed, along with Rodriguez and Escobar.
The Rays, who won their fourth in a row, assumed the Red Sox were upset with a player running with his team five runs ahead.
"That is a really poor argument," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The point of the game is to score runs when you're on offense or prevent runs when you're on defense. If they don't want him to steal third base, do a better job of holding him on second base."
But Gomes, who got into several brawls as a member of the Rays in 2008, said it wasn't the running that bothered him.
"He can take the bag all he wants," Gomes said. "But yell in my dugout, point in my dugout, take your helmet off and basically challenge our whole dugout, I have a problem with that."
Escobar issued a statement through the team, saying: "As far as I'm concerned, it's over."
Joel Peralta (2-3) got the win after giving up Gomes' two-run, pinch-hit homer earlier in the inning. Grant Balfour got his ninth save by retiring Dustin Pedroia on a grounder.
NOTES: Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (arthroscopic right elbow surgery) threw batting practice for the second and is set to pitch in a simulated game Wednesday. He expects to return before the All-Star break. ... Tampa Bay 2B Ben Zobrist (dislocated left thumb) hit against Hellickson and hopes to come off the disabled list next weekend.