Red Sox, Blue Jays benches clear after HBP

Toronto players fired up after Pivetta goes up-and-in on club's star catcher

June 30th, 2022

TORONTO -- Tensions nearly boiled over between the Red Sox and Blue Jays early in Wednesday’s series finale at Rogers Centre as both dugouts and bullpens emptied in the bottom of the third inning.

Boston starter Nick Pivetta hit Alejandro Kirk with a fastball, which didn’t look terribly controversial at that moment, but boos rained down from the crowd as the Toronto faithful defended the local favorite and All-Star voting leader at catcher.

It quickly became clear that things were beginning to escalate, though.

The Blue Jays took issue with how high the pitch hit Kirk, who’s quickly become one of the hottest hitters in the Major Leagues. He’s been challenged inside aggressively lately by pitchers looking to crack his code, so the Toronto players didn't care for Pivetta putting their star in danger.

“He’s been hit up there a couple of times recently,” Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah said. “In the heat of the moment, the team doesn’t want to see your own guy get hit. It’s not to say [Pivetta] did it on purpose or anything, but it’s just a really sensitive area up there. As a team, we’ve got Kirky’s back all day and we’re playing extremely competitive baseball right now.”

Pivetta acknowledged the same following the Red Sox’s tense, 6-5 win in 10 innings, noting that Kirk is a great hitter who does damage out over the plate, so he was trying to pitch him inside. This earned Pivetta the rare honor of being a Canadian booed off the mound in Toronto.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was right in the middle of it, too, going back and forth with Pivetta from the dugout. Guerrero wouldn’t back down, and by the time he climbed over the dugout railing and took two steps onto the field, everyone followed.

“I don’t know. He was yelling at me,” Pivetta explained. “I didn’t think it was necessary for him to come out and start screaming at me. So that got me fired up and everybody else got fired up. That’s about it.”

The Blue Jays’ bullpen began to race in, led by newly-signed reliever Sergio Romo, and the Red Sox ‘pen burst through its doors soon after. Some players needed to be held back, including Rafael Devers on the Boston side, but the altercation was more of a conversation than a fight.

Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo was involved, too, first checking on Kirk, then with the umpires and the Red Sox. Both dugouts were warned, but the issue seemed to end there.

“I actually ran over there, I was talking to Bo [Bichette] about it afterward,” Boston left fielder Alex Verdugo said. “I was like, ‘That was weird, man.’ I like a lot of those guys over there. It felt weird. By the time we got over there, it was already de-escalated, and we basically used it to say, ‘What’s up?’ to the bullpen and some guys on the bench. It was a little weird.”

The American League East rivals will meet up again coming right out of the All-Star break, when the Blue Jays head to Boston for a three-game series on July 22-24.