A ri­valry finds its fire:

Af­ter brawl, rugged AL East race awaits

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Mau­reen Mullen

A brawl has awak­ened Yan­kees vs. Red Sox, and a heated AL East race might await.

Can strug­gling NL divi­sion champs be fixed? Page 6

Jeter starts to leave stamp on Marlins, Page 8

BOS­TON – It’s on. And de­pend­ing which side you’re on, it’s the Evil Em­pire vs. the Good Guys. But, who’s who?

Most pre­sea­son prog­nos­ti­ca­tors pre­dicted the New York Yan­kees and Bos­ton Red Sox would be slug­ging it out this sea­son, fight­ing for supremacy in the divi­sion and per­haps in the league. With 19 games to be played this year, each team would have plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to show it was the more dom­i­nant force.

What they didn’t know, per­haps, is that the Red Sox and Yan­kees would take them so lit­er­ally.

The ri­valry, one of the most his­toric in sports, had been mostly dor­mant for more than a decade, rest­ing on the back burner as the teams strug­gled to be rel­e­vant in the same sea­son. It be­gan to heat up last sea­son, sim­mer­ing as the Red Sox won the divi­sion. But the Yan­kees took the sea­son se­ries 11-8, outscor­ing Bos­ton 82-59, and went fur­ther in the post­sea­son.

The fight for supremacy boiled over last week at Fen­way Park with a full-on brawl that made some of their pugilis­tic pre­de­ces­sors take note. The Yan­kees won the game, the sec­ond of the se­ries, 10-7, but the Red Sox took the three-game se­ries.

The new batch of bad blood be­gan when the Red Sox em­bar­rassed the Yan­kees last week 14-1 in their se­ries opener. In Game 2, New York scored four runs in the first off Bos­ton starter David Price, end­ing his out­ing, the short­est start of the for­mer Cy Young Award win­ner’s ca­reer. Tem­pers heated up in the third in­ning, when New York’s Tyler Austin slid into sec­ond base, spik­ing short­stop Bock Holt in the right calf. Holt took ex­cep­tion and let Austin know it.

“I prob­a­bly said some­thing I prob­a­bly shouldn’t have to start it off,” Holt said. “But I just wanted (Austin) to know it was a bad slide, and I think he knows that now.”

The benches and bullpens emp­tied, but play­ers mostly just stood around. There were a few pushes, but no punches were thrown. Heath Hem­bree struck out Austin in the fifth. But in the sev­enth, Joe Kelly’s sec­ond pitch, a 97.8 mph fast­ball, came in tight to Austin. Two pitches later, Kelly hit Austin with a 97.7 mph fast­ball.

“No one likes get­ting hit with a 98 mph fast­ball,” New York’s Aaron Judge said. “So ev­ery­body was pretty up­set about it.”

Austin slammed his bat on the plate and took a few steps to­ward Kelly, who ap­peared to say, “Let’s go” with a “Come at me, Bro” stance. Austin broke into a full sprint. The benches again emp­tied.

“The only thing I would had done dif- fer­ent than Joe Kelly tonight, is I would’ve hit Tyler Austin at his pre­vi­ous at bat,” Hall of Famer pitcher and Red Sox great Pe­dro Martinez tweeted. “Other than that, Kelly ex­e­cuted per­fectly.”

Keith Foulke, the closer on Bos­ton’s 2004 World Se­ries cham­pi­onship team, also tweeted a thumb’s-up sign at Kelly.

In the en­su­ing melee, punches were thrown — Bos­ton third-base coach Car­los Fe­bles got one in the face. Kelly emerged with bloody marks on his neck. And feel­ings were shared — Bos­ton man­ager Alex Cora and Yan­kees third-base coach Phil Nevin got into a heated, ani- mated shout­ing match af­ter the brawl had sub­sided.

“Typ­i­cal Red Sox-Yan­kee game, about four hours long and a cou­ple of bench­clear­ing brawls,” Holt said. “So we’re right on track here.”

“I was ready to de­fend my­self,” said Kelly, who pre­dictably said the pitch got away from him. “If some­one comes on my prop­erty, in my back­yard, then I have two dogs. … If I feel like I’m get­ting at­tacked, then I’m go­ing to de­fend my­self.”

“I play the game hard,” Austin said. “I thought there was ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with that slide and I had no

thought that they were go­ing to throw at me.

“I’m just try­ing to de­fend my­self, that’s all it is. I thought that (pitch) was in­ten­tional and I didn’t want any­body to push my­self around or any­thing like that and that’s why I went out there.”

“Noth­ing re­motely dirty about it,” Yan­kees man­ager Aaron Boone said of Austin’s slide.

In­tro to Yan­kees-Red Sox

Boone and Cora might be rookie man­agers, but they are not new to the teams’ ri­valry. Cora played for the Red Sox from 2005 to 2008, win­ning a World Se­ries in 2007 but re­mem­ber­ing, with much angst, a five-game week­end sweep the Yan­kees in­flicted at Fen­way in Au­gust 2006. Boone played just a few months for the Yan­kees but in that short time man­aged to in­flict one of the most painful hits on the Red Sox in team his­tory — a lead­off, walk-off home run in the 11th in­ning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Now they’ve got­ten their first looks at the ri­valry from the man­ager’s seat — and in man­ag­ing their first brawls.

“You don’t want peo­ple to get hurt,” Cora said. “It’s the same role — don’t throw a punch and grab some­body.”

Some­times, though, these kinds of in­ci­dents can gal­va­nize a team.

“It shows how close-knit we are in here,” Holt said. “And the same goes for them, how closeknit they are.”

Af­ter the fisticuffs, both man­agers said they be­lieved there would be no car­ry­over. Mi­nus Han­ley Ramirez and Gian­carlo Stan­ton get­ting hit by pitches in the se­ries fi­nale, they were right. But with 16 more games re­main­ing, in­clud­ing their next three May 8-10 at Yan­kee Sta­dium, will peace reign or will they be ready to rum­ble?

Both sides say they are cer­tain the fisticuffs are over and it will be about base­ball go­ing for­ward. How can they be sure? “Pro­fes­sion­al­ism,” Boone said. “At some point, things have to end, you got to put things be­hind. I mean, you al­ways ob­vi­ously have to try and pro­tect your own, but you got to be a pro, too. At the end of the day the big­gest thing is we’re try­ing to win ball­games. Our guys know that. I think that’s the long-term fo­cus all the time. So you’ve got to be able to sep­a­rate, es­pe­cially when emo­tions get hot some­times.”

“We’re play­ing good base­ball and we want to con­tinue to do that,” Bos­ton’s Kelly said.

“What­ever hap­pened, hap­pened,” Bos­ton ace Chris Sale said. “You ad­just and move on.”

But at least one player thought there could be a re­match.

“You know that’s com­ing,” catcher Chris­tian Vazquez said. “They feel like us. That club­house is our sec­ond home. We want to pro­tect our home, so there will be some­thing soon. If not this se­ries, maybe in New York.”

Told of Vazquez’s com­ments, Cora said he would have a chat with his catcher.

“Chris­tian said that? I got to talk to him,” Cora said. “He didn’t men­tion that to me. I’ll talk to him.”

Af­ter the brawl, Kelly re­ceived a six-game sus­pen­sion and Austin got five games. Both have ap­pealed. Cora, Nevin and four play­ers who were on the dis­abled list but left the dugout — New York’s CC Sa­bathia and Bos­ton’s Dustin Pe­droia, Xan­der Bo­gaerts and Marco Her­nan­dez — were fined.

“I think it’s two pas­sion­ate clubs and those kinds of things hap­pen over the course of a sea­son some­times, for­tu­nately or un­for­tu­nately,” Boone said. “I don’t read too much into it other than two teams that are play­ing for a lot and com­pet­ing for a lot and some­times, over the course of a long sea­son when you get com­pet­i­tive peo­ple out there, those things can hap­pen.”

The Yan­kees and Red Sox don’t play at Fen­way Park again un­til Aug. 2 but they close out the reg­u­lar sea­son in Septem­ber with a three-game se­ries in Bos­ton.

Stay tuned.


Yan­kees first base­man Tyler Austin starts a scrum with Red Sox re­lief pitcher Joe Kelly, left, dur­ing the open­ing se­ries be­tween the teams at Fen­way Park.

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