Filled with voice-choking rage, a season's frustration and perhaps the consequence-be-damned fearlessness of a man who suspects his days are numbered, Baltimore Orioles Manager Ray Miller launched an expletive-filled verbal tirade on Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez following a bench-clearing confrontation tonight. And Martinez fired back.
Angered by what he saw as an intentional beaning of Orioles leadoff hitter Brady Anderson in the fifth inning and a bench-clearing confrontation three innings later, Miller lashed out at Martinez to reporters after the Orioles' 5-3 loss.
"Pedro hit my leadoff hitter right in the middle of the back, and he's walked 37 people all year," Miller said. "I've been watching him for 10 years. Every good game he pitches he hits one good hitter in the back because [the hitter] has the [guts] to stand at home plate. . . . He might be a good pitcher, but he's an [expletive]."
Martinez's response was equally venomous and perhaps even more personal.
"What Ray Miller has to say he should say managing his team," Martinez said. "That's a pretty good team to manage and they haven't done [anything]. If he wants to take out his frustrations, let him take it out on his managing, and not on me."
Miller also criticized what he saw as a feeble effort by Martinez to cover home plate when Anderson dashed home from third on a passed ball in the eighth. Anderson appeared to brush past Martinez as he ran by, and Martinez appeared to yell something as Anderson jogged to the dugout.
Anderson stopped and gestured toward Martinez, and when it appeared neither player was backing down, both benches and bullpens began spilling onto the field. No punches were thrown.
"If he had enough [guts] to cover home he would've died right there," Miller said, meaning Anderson would have steamrolled Martinez. "He would've gotten his [tail] knocked in the stands. Then he jaws at Brady when Brady walks away. . . . He doesn't have the [guts] to walk up in anybody's face. All he does is run behind everybody and cause fights all the time."
Martinez said: "I covered the plate. If [Anderson] wanted to do something, he could have."
Asked if he thought the confrontation was going to explode into something bigger, Miller said, "I was hoping."
Tonight, with Cy Young favorite Martinez improving his record to 23-4 and the Red Sox guaranteed at least a tie for a wild-card playoff berth, Fenway Park bulged and creaked under a sellout crowd of 33,477.
Responding to Miller's implication, Martinez denied he purposefully hit Anderson in the back, pointing out, correctly, that Anderson has been hit a league-leading 24 times.
"Brady knows it's part of the game," Martinez said. "He was right on top of the plate. He's been hit all year."
The seeds of this confrontation may have been planted on Sunday, when Orioles reliever Al Reyes hit Red Sox superstar Nomar Garciaparra on the right wrist, causing Garciaparra to miss tonight's game. Anderson also was hit on Sunday, on a fastball from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Orioles Notes: After Matt Riley labored through what he called a "frustrating" bullpen session before tonight's game, the Orioles are rethinking their decision to start the 20-year-old left-hander Thursday against the New York Yankees. Riley has thrown 182 combined innings this season in the minors and majors. . . .
The Orioles' home game Saturday against Boston will start at 7:05 p.m.