ST. PETERSBURG -- You know it's a strange day at the park when a manager is seemingly on the field as much as any player. Such was the case with Indians manager Eric Wedge in the midst of a bizarre afternoon at Tropicana Field, as the Tribe and Rays played a game that featured a lineup snafu, a questionable call by the umpires and a benches-clearing ... non-fracas. "I don't think I've ever been in a game as wacky as this one," Rays left fielder Carl Crawford said after his club's 7-5 win.
It was wacky from the start, when Wedge, in his first of three separate conferences with the umps, pointed out that the Rays had put out a lineup that included two third basemen, thus forfeiting their designated-hitter spot. And it only got weirder and wilder from there in a game where Cleveland's Jamey Carroll and Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett each finished a homer shy of the cycle. As rare as the lineup malfunction might be, the more serious matters came in the eighth. In the top half of the inning, Indians left fielder Ryan Garko had an apparent double taken away. The high fly ball hit the top of the padded wall and bounced into Crawford's hand. Third-base umpire Andy Fletcher thought the ball first hit Crawford's glove before landing in his hand, thereby resulting in an out. Wedge made his second trip to the field to argue the call, to no avail. Replay was not an option, because it was not a disputed home run. "There's no way I saw it [the umpires'] way," said Wedge, who was ejected Friday for arguing a close play at the plate. "Obviously the third-base umpire saw it that way, they all got together and, for whatever reason, nobody else saw it any other way either. I haven't seen a replay, but from what I understand, it hit the padding behind the glove then came back in." The replay backed Wedge up. In the bottom of the inning, Kerry Wood entered the game with two out and one on and immediately ran one fastball behind B.J. Upton's back and another at his knees. "I haven't pitched a lot lately," said Wood, who was working for the first time in four days. "I didn't come out of the chute throwing strikes. I was just trying to make [Upton] uncomfortable." The Rays took issue with the pitches, which they viewed as retribution for Upton swiping second and third with the Rays trailing, 9-0, in the bottom of the sixth inning of Thursday's series opener. Energized by those stolen bases, the Rays went on to make a game of it, forcing the Indians to dig deep into their bullpen for an 11-7 win. "It was really obvious that Wood came into the game to try and hit B.J.," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I know there's all these unwritten rules in baseball. But to me, when the other team stops trying to score runs, that doesn't mean you have to stop trying to score runs also. ... The book was written when the ball wasn't as lively. Scores change rather rapidly these days. So there's a lot of pages from the book that need to be burned, extracted, whatever you want to call it." No doubt in a less verbose manner, Maddon shared these feelings with Indians catcher Victor Martinez from the dugout. Martinez let Maddon know his feelings, as well. Next thing you knew, everybody was on the field barking at each other. In the midst of the craziness, Indians pitching coach Carl Willis was ejected for telling Fletcher what he felt about the call earlier in the inning. How did Martinez feel about Maddon? "He needs to worry about teaching his players to play the game the right way," said Martinez, who had nearly charged the mound when J.P. Howell threw him a fastball toward the head Friday. "You've got to show respect to get respect. You don't see nobody stealing when it's 9-0 in the sixth or seventh inning." While plenty of words went back and forth, no punches were thrown. "It was pretty much a wrap after that," Upton said. Well, not quite, because both benches were issued a warning. In the ninth, Troy Percival plunked Mark DeRosa with an 0-2 fastball and was not ejected. "[Percival] has the right to throw inside, and he has the right to be able to hit the guy -- not intentionally," crew chief Tim McClelland said. Wedge made his third trip to talk with the umps at that point. "They had issued a warning," Wedge said. "The guy about hit him in the chin. I thought that if they issue a warning -- I know it was 0-2 -- but if you run it up and in like that, I thought that warrants them following through on the warning. But they didn't think there was any intent." Percival said he'd be crazy to purposefully hit a guy with an 0-2 pitch with his team clinging to a two-run lead in the ninth. "I'm not going to put the game on the line in that situation with no outs," Percival said. "You've got the heart of the lineup going to come up if I get guys on base. Was I coming inside? Absolutely. I've got an 0-2 count, their entire team dives over the plate. But no way am I going to hit him. Especially someone I respect." With all the tight pitches and high emotions, the Indians and Rays have already established an intriguing subplot to their May 25-28 series at Progressive Field. Wedge can only hope he won't have to confer with the umpiring crew so much.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.