Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes, plus two Rays players, shortstop Yunel Escobar and designated hitter Sean Rodriguez, were dismissed from the series finale at Tropicana Field after benches cleared in the bottom of the seventh inning of Tampa Bay's 8-5 victory.
With two outs and the Rays leading 8-3, Escobar stole third base on defensive indifference. Shortly after, he exchanged words with and made gestures toward players in Boston's dugout. Then Gomes — a Devil Rays/Rays player from 2003-08 — ran in from left field and made contact with Escobar.
Players from both teams met near third base, but the situation was defused a short time later.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's over," Escobar said in a statement through the team. He declined to talk to reporters afterward.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Red Sox players took issue with Escobar stealing third with a five-run lead. However, Maddon was quick to point to an incident during Game 1 of the American League Division Series last October between the teams when Jacoby Ellsbury stole second in the bottom of the eighth with the Red Sox holding an 8-2 lead on their way to a 12-2 victory at Fenway Park.
"I didn't take any exception when they stole on us last year in the eighth inning of a Division Series, an 8-2 lead, Ellsbury on and they steal," Maddon said. "I didn't take any, because our goal is to not permit them to score any runs, and their goal is to score runs the whole game. The whole game. That's always been the goal within the game of baseball."
Rodriguez, who hit the first pinch-hit home run of his career earlier in the seventh, was confused as well.
"Five runs in a big-league game?" he said, referencing the lead at the time of the incident. "Five runs? ... We don't take that for granted."
Added Rays third-base coach Tom Foley, who tried to hold Escobar back before benches cleared. "He's an emotional guy. So I guess he can only take so much. It finally got to him. ... He just basically talked back to them, and next thing you know, benches cleared."
The incident capped an eventful three-game series between the American League East rivals. Tampa Bay won on walk-off sequences Friday and Saturday. Saturday's game was a five-hour, 16-minute marathon that lasted 15 innings.
With Sunday's victory, the Rays earned a sweep and handed the Red Sox their first 10-game losing streak since June 8-19, 1994, when they lost 11 straight.
"We're down five in the seventh, so it's somewhat of a gray area when you shut down the running game," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Yunel is going to do some things that might be a little unpredictable, so that's what precipitated it.
"We're certainly not in a good place. We haven't lost our competitive spirit or the way we continue to grind away inside of an inning, inside of a game."
Consider the sequence another twist in an interesting history involving the Rays and Red Sox. Thirty-seven of Tampa Bay's 150 ejections have happened against Boston. The Rays have no more than 13 against any other club (New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays).
"He was yelling at our dugout," Gomes said of Escobar. "He kind of kept yelling, then took his helmet off and continued to yell. I don't know. I don't have much patience, don't have much time right now to be in an arguing match."