John Lackey insisted he meant no harm, though the Tampa Bay Rays hardly were convinced of that after a testy game with Boston that included a bench-clearing scrum.
Daniel Nava hit a tiebreaking single in the 14th inning and the Red Sox recovered after blowing two late leads to beat Tampa Bay 10-8 on Monday night in a game that took 5 hours, 24 minutes — making it the second-longest in Rays history.
But the hot topic afterward was Lackey’s sixth-inning pitch that hit Matt Joyce in the middle of the back.
Joyce had homered earlier and lined a 3-0 pitch foul into the right-field stands. The Rays outfielder shouted at Lackey after getting plunked but was restrained by Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia as players from both teams streamed out of the dugouts and bullpens.
"I was just trying to come in there and get him off the plate a little bit," Lackey said. "They were swinging at pretty much everything I threw up there. I was trying to get a little bit of the plate for me."
Joyce and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon felt the pitch was intentional.
"As far as I understood, he was pretty upset that I dropped my bat on the 3-0 swing," said Joyce, who eventually grounded out in that at-bat.
"I was actually pretty upset at myself," for not hitting such a good pitch, Joyce said. "Honestly, I felt like it was a pretty bush league move. I think it was very obvious. I’d really rather not get too much into it, but obviously I wasn’t too happy about it."
There was pushing and shoving along the first base line, but it appeared no punches were thrown and the umpires did not eject anyone.
Boston manager John Farrell defended Lackey.
"He was trying to throw the ball in, off the plate, obviously. There was no intent to hit him," Farrell said. "Their guys took some good swings tonight on Lackey’s fastball, and he was just trying to create a little openness on the outside of the plate and obviously the pitch got away from him."
Madden, meanwhile, said what Lackey did was "inappropriate."
"It all started because Matt hit a home run in the first inning and then apparently Lackey did not like the fact that he swung at a 3-0 pitch and almost hit another home run. So he intentionally hit him. There’s no question in my mind he did," said Maddon, who’s been friends with the Boston pitcher since both were in the Angels organization.
"And the sad part is I’ve always considered Lackey a good teammate," Maddon added. "But right there he could get one of his own players hurt. … That’s being a bad teammate as far as I’m concerned."
Shane Victorino opened the 14th with a single off Cesar Ramos (1-2), then tagged up and hustled to second when Dustin Pedroia flied out to deep right field. David Ortiz was intentionally walked before Nava singled to center to put the Red Sox ahead. Saltalamacchia singled for his fourth hit, making it 10-8.
Franklin Morales (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.
Saltalamacchia gave the Red Sox an 8-6 lead with a two-run single in the 10th, but closer Andrew Bailey couldn’t hold it.
After Jose Lobaton led off the bottom of the 10th with Tampa Bay’s fourth solo homer, the Rays loaded the bases with no outs on two walks and Ben Zobrist’s fifth hit.
Bailey walked Kelly Johnson on a 3-2 pitch — forcing in the tying run — but escaped further damage when Evan Longoria grounded into a 5-2-3 double play and Sam Fuld was thrown out trying to bunt for a potential game-winning hit.
Pedroia singled to extend his season-best hitting streak to 14 games and drive in the first two runs of a six-run first inning against Alex Cobb, who settled down after the rocky start to give the Rays a chance to come back against Lackey.
Pedroia drew a leadoff walk in the 10th and scored when Saltalamacchia singled off Fernando Rodney to give the Red Sox a second lead they couldn’t hold.
Longoria, Joyce and James Loney hit solo homers for the Rays, the latter trimming Boston’s lead to 6-5 in the seventh. Yunel Escobar doubled and later scored on Junichi Tazawa’s wild pitch to make it 6-all in the eighth.
Luke Scott and Zobrist also drove in runs for the Rays, who managed to overcome the big deficit despite going 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position through nine innings.
Nava, Mike Carp and Will Middlebrooks also drove in runs in the first for Boston, which turned seven hits and a walk into a quick 6-0 lead.
The first-place Red Sox improved to 6-1 against the fourth-place Rays, who fell five games off the pace in the AL East. Boston has won eight of 11 to climb a season-best 15 games over .500 at 40-25.
The first eight batters of the game reached base for Boston, which scored six runs before Cobb was able to get an out. The Rays starter didn’t allow another hit, though, and Tampa Bay gradually crept back into the game.
Lackey allowed four runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings, departing with a 6-4 lead.
Cobb lasted four innings, allowing six runs and seven hits.
NOTES: Rays LHP David Price, on the 15-day disabled list since May 16 with a left triceps strain, said he felt as good as he has all year after throwing 45 pitches in a bullpen session. The plan is for the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner to throw again Wednesday, then pitch a simulated game on Saturday. If all goes well, he’d then begin a minor league rehab stint and possibly return to the rotation late this month or in early July. … Boston RHP Clay Buchholz could have his next start pushed back at least a couple of days. Buchholz, who is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA, left his last start in the seventh inning with what the Red Sox called "neck tightness." Farrell said the right-hander may not be ready to throw his normal between-starts bullpen session on Wednesday. His next scheduled start is Friday. … The Red Sox reinstated Middlebrooks (lower back strain) from the DL before the game.