The opener between the rival Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox took an intense turn in the thick of a massive nine-run fifth inning for the home side on Friday.
The Jays pounded out nine of their 17 hits in the frame en route to a 12-4 victory at Rogers Centre.
Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi was replaced by Hansel Robles after the former was touched for the first seven runs. Robles then allowed a single to Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk and plunked the next batter, Randal Grichuk, in the arm just above the left elbow.
The four umpires gathered in the infield to decide whether or not to toss the Red Sox hurler. They concluded to warn both teams, so Robles stayed in the game.
The Blue Jays didn’t agree with the decision. They started to chirp Robles. Then the affair became heated.
Robles made some facial gestures at the Blue Jays. Toronto players stepped outside the dugout.
Those who ventured off the bench included starter Alek Manoah and pitcher Jose Berrios, who last week was a teammate of Robles on the Minnesota Twins before they were traded to Toronto and Boston, respectively.
“We put up a seven spot and a guy gets hit pretty hard,” said Manoah, who went five innings and allowed two runs on four hits. “You have to have your guy’s back. There is only one guy [Robles] who really knows if it was intentional.”
Grichuk said he discussed the matter with a pair of Red Sox over the next few innings and was informed that Robles had struggled recently. He surrendered three runs on three hits in an inning of work in Detroit against the Tigers on Thursday.
“You can read it one of two ways,” Grichuk said. “It didn’t look that way to me.
“He didn’t have control and that one got away.”
What initially looked like a pitching duel between Eovaldi (9-7) and Manoah also got away.
The Red Sox enjoyed a 2-0 lead after scoring back-to-back runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Manoah (4-1) pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, cajoling J.D. Martinez to end the inning with a pop up to Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The Blue Jays then exploded in the bottom half of the inning. The bottom part of order set the table with three consecutive doubles from Kirk, Grichuk and third baseman Breyvic Valera.
In total, Toronto sent 14 batters to the plate. The big blows were a two-run homer down the left-field line from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and a two-run double to left centre from Teoscar Hernandez.
Hernandez led the Blue Jays attack with three hits and three RBI.
The Blue Jays (58-49) continue to thrive in their return to Rogers Centre. They now have seven wins in eights starts at their home field after a 22-month absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team insists that even though crowds are limited to 15,000 (attendance was 14,719 on Friday), the return home has been a big boost to their search for a playoff spot.
“I can only imagine what 50,000 is going to be like,” Manoah said.
Playing in Buffalo against popular teams like the Red Sox or New York Yankees never felt like home games, Grichuk said. In Toronto, it’s a different story.
“We’ve come back here and feel the energy and it’s nice to be back in a big-league ballpark,” he said.
The Blue Jays have pieced together the American League’s best record at 25-14 since June 19. Boston (64-47) began the day with the third-best record in the AL, but the Red Sox lost for the seventh time in eight outings and have gone 9-11 since the all-star break.