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Ire exchanged, benches warned, but only Zobrist hit

Ire exchanged, benches warned, but only Zobrist hit

Ire exchanged, benches warned, but only Zobrist hit

ST. PETERSBURG -- A tense weekend came to a close at Tropicana Field on Sunday afternoon with only one hit batsman to show for several pointed words and gestures.

Detroit's Rick Porcello hit Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist with a high 94-mph fastball in the bottom of the first inning of Sunday's 3-1 Rays' win.

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Was it intentional? It depends on who you ask.

"I thought it was absolutely uncalled for and hopefully the league will take a look at that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's totally premeditated. There's no question about that.

"We didn't hit anybody. I want that to be duly noted. When this is all processed, I would hope that people process it properly."

Warnings were issued to Porcello and both dugouts from home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza.

"Why is everybody making a big deal out of that?" Detroit manager Jim Leyland wondered. "It's part of baseball. Guys get hit in baseball games. Big deal. It's nothing new. … Nobody's trying to hit anybody."

The tense weekend could be traced back to Friday when Miguel Cabrera was seen mimicking Rays closer Fernando Rodney's signature archery celebratory gesture after the Tigers' win.

Cabrera and Rodney were teammates during the final two years of Rodney's seven-year stint with Detroit. Rodney said he considers Cabrera "a good friend."

"I think he was saying, 'Thank you God for the win,'" Rodney said Sunday. "This guy is like that. He's a funny guy."

A day later, Cabrera drew the ire of Rays fans when he talked his way back to the dugout after Rodney nearly hit him with a 98-mph fastball before striking him out to help the Rays win in extra innings.

Leyland said Rodney had "a price to pay" for his fastball after Saturday's game, but he changed his tune before Sunday's game, saying, "That's history. I don't think anybody accused anybody of doing anything on purpose."

But as Maddon was quick to point out, "history repeated itself" just after Zobrist dug into the batter's box. Porcello called the pitch an inside fastball that "just got away from me."

Zobrist saw it differently.

"I think it was pretty clear in everyone's minds that it was intentional after the things that were said last night," Zobrist said. "I just said to one of the umpires on the way to first, 'Hey, that was intentional and you guys know it. I think we should do something about that.' They chose not to.

"It was at my face. I was fortunate to get out of the way enough to only get hit in the wrist. I would expect a little bit better after the words that were said."

Zobrist also called Cabrera "a little sensitive" for his part in escalating the feud Saturday.

"He was sensitive and upset because he struck out," Zobrist said. "He didn't like the fact that he got pushed off the plate and he couldn't reach the changeup. Why is he yelling at people on our side of the field? We didn't hit him."

Cabrera did make the Rays -- both the ones wearing blue and those of the marine variety -- pay Sunday, not by retaliating, but by launching a solo home run into the Rays Touch Tank in the top of the fourth inning.

"The rays were in danger," Maddon said. "He could have gotten a phone call or a letter from some activist group, I'm sure. It was a helium ball. I don't debate this guy is outstanding. He's wonderful. I just wish he wouldn't cry so much."

The ball was only the second to land in the tank in Tropicana Field's history. Luis Gonzalez made a similar splash as a Dodger on June 24, 2007.

The Rays got the last laugh, at least on the scoreboard, by winning their first series against the Tigers in St. Petersburg since 2010.

Sam Strong is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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