An errant throw by Alfredo Aceves on an double steal in the fifth inning allowed two runs to score and the Rays beat the Yankees 5-3 in Tampa on Saturday.
But the real story is that the Rays plunked Jerry Hairston Jr. -- twice. That coming a night after David Price hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch with some on the Yankees wondering about the rookie lefthander's intentions.
But I'm not going be indirect here. The intent is clear. The Rays are trying to send a message, and it's a message both the Yankees and Red Sox have heard before.
After winning the AL pennant last season, the Rays, thanks in large part to injuries, have taken a step back, failing to even be playoff threat this last month of the season.
They intend to be back next season and wanted to send the Yankees and the rest of the league a message.
Just as they did in the spring of 2008.
Remember what happened then?
In a spring training game, Elliot Johnson ran over then-unknown minor leaguer Francisco Cervelli on a play at the plate, breaking Cervelli's wrist and costing him most of the season.
It was just a spring training game, but the Rays were sending a message. They were going to play the game hard and aggressively and they weren't afraid to go toe-to-toe with the "bullies" in the AL East.
And just to make sure the Red Sox got the message, James Shields plunked Coco Crisp on the hip, sparking a benches-clearing brawl on June 5.
This is how the Rays do business.
And before you neophyte baseball fans who support the Rays but didn't even know there was team in Tampa before last October start bitching and moaning about CC Sabathia breaking Carlos Pena's hand with a pitch in September, know this: there was no intent to hit Pena with that pitch.
Anyone who was paying attention during that game understands that.
The fact of the matter is that the pitch started out over the plate enough for Pena to start his swing, and when he tried to hold up as the pitch bore in too far, he couldn't, resulting in a strike.
When a pitcher wants to hit a batter intentionally, he goes throws right at the hitter. That's not what CC did.
Shove that in your cowbell and bang on it.
Yet, there was Price on Friday, firing a pitch shoulder-high and tight that hit Teixeira in the hand in the first inning. Teixeira wasn't happy and the Yankees took notice. When a player doesn't believe a pitcher hit him on purpose, he says so. That's not what Teixeira did, answering reporters' question with short, terse answers.
And that brings us to Saturday.
The last series of the season means little to the Yankees. They want to keep their core players sharp and healthy, while evaluating some others for the last few spots on the postseason lineup. That Andy Pettitte allowed five runs, three earned, on six hits and four walks in 4-1/3 innings is not a big deal, so long as his left shoulder and elbow are healthy and strong.
But the Rays have a different agenda. They want the Yankees to know that they'll be right there in 2010, competing for another division title.
In the third, rookie Jeff Neimann hit Hairston and then he did it again in the fifth.
And as we saw last year, this is how the Rays send their messages -- it's old-school.
If that had happened in July or August, you could have counted on the Yankees retaliating by hitting, say, Akinori Iwamura or Jason Bartlett. In early September, the Yanks could have let Shelley Duncan become baseball's version of the NHL's enforcer.
But the Yankees have too much riding right now. The last thing they want is for someone to be suspended, or worse, injured in a brawl.
So instead, they'll tuck the Rays' transgressions into their memory banks.
Count on the Yankees finding some baseball justice at some point next season.
Joba Out Of The Pen Today
Joba Chamberlain is going to pitch out of the bullpen today, possibly to two batters, maybe for an inning, so that the Yankees can figure out if the young righthander can help them in that role in the postseason.
Which leads me to wonder: What the heck was the last two months about? Weren't the Yankees' insane plans to limit Joba's innings also about having him available as a starter in the postseason?
So that means the Yankees messed with the kid's head just so that he could wind up in the bullpen anyway? Brilliant. Just Brilliant.
Nice job Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland. Helluva job.
Your handling of Joba made so much more sense than, oh, I don't know, letting Joba pitch every fifth day and throwing 100 pitches an outing until he hits 145-150 inning and then moving him to the bullpen to finish out the year.
At least learn from this episode so that you don't repeat it with Phil Hughes next season.
Runners In Scoring Position
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
Vs. Red Sox
Sunday at Rays, 1:38 p.m., YES
A.J. Burnett (12-9, 4.10 ERA) vs. Wade Davis (2-1, 3.45)
Burnett has been streaky this season, so he'll be looking to continue the roll he's on ... and maybe get his 100th career victory to boot. Davis is rookie closing out the season for the Rays as they prepare for an offseason on the golf course.