Maybe it was because of hit batters. Or because of an overemotional response to a balk, or the strategy of trying to cause one. Or maybe it was all just a misunderstanding.
Whatever the cause, the scorching sunshine wasn’t the only thing that generated heat in the seventh inning Sunday.
Eduardo Escobar was ejected for the first time in his career, and he felt more like the victim than the instigator. It started when Escobar, following Brian Dozier’s fake steal attempt that coaxed a balk from Diego Castillo, got down 0-2. The next pitch was a 101-mile-per-hour fastball headed toward Escobar’s knees.
As Escobar, who had been hit by a pitch an inning earlier, paused before getting back into the box, emotions boiled over. According to the Rays, Twins reliever Ryan Pressly was complaining from the dugout that the Rays were trying to hit Escobar. Cameras caught Rays manager Kevin Cash yelling at someone to shut up and challenging them to charge the mound.
“I think he was talking to some guys that were chirping from our bench,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It seemed to me that all of a sudden their pitcher decides to throw one 101 at Esco’s legs, and we reacted.”
Escobar was about to resume hitting when he noticed third baseman Daniel Robertson gesturing at him to get back into the box. Escobar objected, Rays pitcher Chris Archer bounded onto the field to challenge him, and both benches emptied.
“Everybody was yelling at each other. He was looking back up at our pitcher, and I just told him, ‘Hey, quit staring at our pitcher. Nobody’s trying to hit you,’ ’’ Robertson said. “It kind of got a little heated after that.”
But no punches were thrown and order was restored. Escobar got back in the box and took strike three. He threw his helmet down and was walking to his position at third base when he saw Robertson again.
“He started signaling when he was going into his dugout,” Escobar said. “I felt that was disrespectful.”
The benches cleared again, and this time Escobar was ejected.
“They said they had to do something,” Molitor said. “They thought Esco was the instigator the second time.”
So what was the cause of all the trouble? The Rays denied that Castillo had any intent behind his low fastball. And the Twins scoffed at the notion that Dozier’s bluff was disrespectful.
“That’s part of the risks you take,” Molitor said. “When you give a good baserunner an opportunity, it can cause a guy to flinch.”
Told that Archer seemed perturbed when the Twins did it to him Saturday, Molitor replied, “Yeah, well, they don’t really have a case.”