BOSTON — Tired of getting beat up in recent days and getting treated like mere doormats over the years at Fenway Park, the Orioles' frustration finally boiled over Friday night, and the result was a benches-clearing brawl that featured Kevin Gregg and David Ortiz exchanging punches.
Another lopsided loss — this one a 10-3 defeat to the Red Sox in front of an announced 37,729 at Fenway Park that was all but sealed when rookie left-hander Zach Britton allowed eight first-inning runs — turned ugly when Ortiz charged the Orioles pitcher, who was yelling at the Boston All-Star designated hitter as he jogged to first base.
Both of the combatants threw wild punches, but none landed as the benches cleared, resulting in four players — two from each team — getting ejected.
"We are playing the game of baseball," Gregg said. "You got to go ask David what he was thinking. It's 3-0 and you are up seven runs and the opposing pitcher gets upset with you for hitting a weak fly ball and not running. If he thinks there's something with me saying that, than he's got other things he needs to figure out in this game.
"This is a team sport. I take offense to every run scored off every one of our pitchers. I take offense to every one of our hitters that's hit every time out there. We are a family we spend more time with these 25 guys than I do with my own family, and I take it personal. And so, to be able to go out there, you get tired of getting your butt kicked every night when you come in here. I'm going to stick up for what ours and try to get the plate back."
Ortiz, who had hit homers in back-to-back games, including a three-run shot off Britton in the first, came to the plate with a man on and one out in the eighth with the Red Sox leading 10-3. Ortiz took umbrage to Gregg throwing three straight pitches inside.
He glared at him after the first one and then pointed to him following the third one, also walking to the mound as the benches cleared.
Things didn't escalate the first time the benches cleared. But one pitch later, after Ortiz lofted Gregg's 3-0 pitch high into center field, Gregg yelled as Ortiz as he trotted to first base. Ortiz immediately charged the pitcher and fired a couple of punches.
"There's 17 inches on the plate," Gregg said. "You got to use all 17 inches. If you don't you are going to get your [butt] kicked every time you go out there. So that's what we're doing, that's what I was doing when I was out there. They are going to whine and complain about it because they think they are better than everybody else, but no, we have just as much right to pitch inside as they do. ...
"I think [we] showed them that we are not backing down. We are not scared of them and their $180 million payroll. We don't care. We are here to play the game. We have just as much right to play the game here, and we are going to do everything we can to win."
While Gregg and Ortiz — who left the Red Sox clubhouse before talking to reporters — were the main combatants, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters had to be restrained by Red Sox third base coach Tim Bogar. Orioles left fielder Felix Pie was held back by two of the Orioles coaches, and reliever Jim Johnson and Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon exchanged words.
Gregg, Oritz, Johnson and Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were all ejected.
I like the guy, I like Ortiz," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. "I respect the way he plays the game, but I think it was a little bush league, bottom of the eighth, up by [seven], two outs, swinging 3-0. I don't think we were hitting anybody intentionally there. If it has to come down to that, it has to come down to it. He knows how to play the game. I think he's going to look back at it and realize that he screwed up there, but what happened, happened. It's over."
Orioles center field Adam Jones called the incident: "sure as [heck] necessary," and said that he "couldn't be prouder" of Gregg, the first-year Orioles closer. Markakis echoed those sentiments.
"If you ask me, this happened in the right spot at the right time," Markakis said. "We still got two more games left with these guys and we have seven more games after the break. We're going to see them. We're going to get our opportunities and they're going to get their opportunities. We'll see how it works out."
Added Britton: "It's part of the game but those two pitches that Gregg threw to Papi weren't even close. So it was unnecessary for him to stare in and act like a tough guy. Kevin's not going to back down if you are going to stare at him like that. There's no reason we are trying to hit him. We are getting our [butts] kicked, we are not trying to hit him. That's what you get. Big Papi, he is what he is, and that's what happens."
Britton had plenty more to say, specifically about his own outing. He managed to get just two outs, while allowing eight runs (seven earned) on six hits and two walks. The rookie left-hander has lost three consecutive decisions and six of his last seven. He has just one victory since May 1, a span of 12 starts, while the Orioles' rotation now has 9.09 ERA over the last 14 games.
"I was pretty much embarrassed," Britton said. "It's unacceptable. If you want to pitch at this level, you can't do that, especially since the way we've been throwing the starting rotation, to go out there and not even get out of the first inning, it's kind of a joke."
The Orioles (37-49) are now 1-7 on this road trip and have lost 10 of their last 11 games and 20 of their last 25. During their five-game losing streak, they've been outscored 50-18, including 20-7 in the first two games of this series. The Orioles have also now given up double-digit runs four times in their past five games and double-digit hits in six straight.
Perhaps, the late-game melee will serve as the spark that the team needs.
"I'm proud of them," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "They handled it the right way. We're a little wounded, and some things happen out there that kind of wakens wounded people. We'll see what happens."