BOSTON -- The Rays slugged three home runs en route to a 7-4 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night, but a ninth-inning scuffle brought a new dimension to the three-game series at Fenway Park.
Things got testy in the ninth, as Boston reliever Franklin Morales plunked Luke Scott with two outs, causing both benches to spill onto the field. After some heated arguing and pushing and shoving, play resumed with a warning to both benches but no ejections.
"I didn't understand the situation whatsoever. It was not called for at all," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm kind of curious regarding who put out the hit, because I know it wasn't one of their players. By the way their players reacted to the entire situation, I knew it did not come from them. It's kind of incompetent behavior. It's the kind of behavior that gets people hurt and gets [players] hurt on your own side by choosing to do something so ridiculous."
The general consensus from the Rays' clubhouse after the game was that a Boston coach authorized the hit.
"It's obvious where it came from," Scott said, "and at the end of the day you reap what you sow. I was surprised [to be thrown at]. We know where it came from. I just move on. Just imagine getting hit by a 97-mph fastball in your knee."
"That's truly somebody flexing their muscles on the other side that really needs to put them in their back pocket and understand that they could hurt their own team by doing something like that," Maddon said.
Lost in the exchange was another strong road performance for Tampa Bay.
The Rays homered three times in a span of two innings to chase starter Jon Lester to win their fourth straight road game and snapped the Sox's five-game winning streak at home.
Matt Joyce jump-started Tampa Bay's offense when he belted a grand slam on a 3-1 pitch from Lester with two outs in the third inning, depositing the ball into Boston's bullpen in right field. It was Joyce's fourth career grand slam and his second in seven days. The other came last Saturday vs. Atlanta.
Both of those slams came during Alex Cobb's starts.
"That's just a funny coincidence," Joyce said. "I got a good pitch to hit. I fell behind in the count and it was what I was looking for and I hit it pretty well."
In the fourth, Elliot Johnson and Carlos Pena provided back-to-back home runs to push the lead to 7-1. Johnson hit a towering two-run homer over the Green Monster. Two pitches later, Pena went deep to right field for his second home run in three games as the Rays' leadoff hitter.
It was the second time the Rays had back-to-back homers this year. Johnson combined with Ben Zobrist for the other on May 13.
Cobb, making his second start of the season, went five innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on three hits. He walked four against two strikeouts and threw 96 pitches to earn his second win.
The right-hander looked shaky in the first inning, though. Mike Aviles reached on an error by third baseman Drew Sutton, stole second and scored on an RBI single from Kevin Youkilis. But Cobb pitched out of a jam with two men on base and escaped the inning after 27 pitches.
Cobb didn't allow another run until the fifth, when Adrian Gonzalez doubled off the Green Monster to score Scott Podsednik.
The Red Sox got to the Rays' bullpen for two runs in the sixth to cut the deficit to 7-4. Jake McGee entered to face David Ortiz with two on and two outs, and he got the slugger to fly out to end the threat.
"Jake McGee was the hero of tonight's game by the way he came in and settled the whole thing down," Maddon said. "I was very impressed with that."
McGee retired all four batters he faced, including a 1-2-3 seventh inning. Joel Peralta worked a perfect eighth and Fernando Rodney retired the side in order in the ninth for his 15th save in 15 chances.
Lester did not return after the Rays' three-run fourth inning. The southpaw allowed seven runs on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks to lose for the first time in his past three outings.
"It looked like he had pretty good stuff going in," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "After the first inning, he was looking pretty good. The game got away from him a little there with the walk to Pena and the grand slam to Joyce, obviously. The strike zone eluded him. A couple of left-handers who don't hit left-handers all that well got him."
Tampa Bay improved to 28-18 and remains one game behind Baltimore for first place in the American League East. Since April 21, the Rays and Orioles are tied for the best record in the Majors at 21-11.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.