Beckett, Lofton have words in Game 5
Duo separated following outfielder's fifth-inning at-bat
CLEVELAND -- Tempers flared on Thursday night, leading to a brief but heated shouting match between the Red Sox and Indians at Jacobs Field. The main players in the minor fracas were Boston's Josh Beckett and Cleveland's Kenny Lofton, who have a history of angry exchanges.
The incident took place during the fifth inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, when Beckett and Lofton squared off in the frame's first at-bat. Beckett started the meeting with three straight balls and then fired a pitch that flirted with the lower edge of the strike zone.
Lofton thought he had just watched ball four, and he quickly dropped his bat to the ground before turning to head to first base. Cleveland's left fielder retrieved his lumber when home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom ruled the offering a strike, but Beckett was already beginning to fume.
"Kenny's done that for a long time," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said about Lofton's bat toss, following Boston's 7-1 victory. "It's part of what he does and not everybody's going to agree with it."
Lofton swung at the ensuing pitch and promptly flew out innocently to left field. As soon as he connected with Beckett's 3-1 offering, Boston's starter began barking at Lofton as he made his way up the first-base line. Lofton continued to run to first, waited for the ball to be caught and then headed toward the mound while yelling back at Beckett.
"It goes back to 2005," said Lofton, who had a similar episode when he was with the Phillies and Beckett pitched for the Marlins. "He's the only one [who has a problem with how I drop the bat]. That's the way he is. He's that kind of guy. He was saying some stuff to me and I didn't like it. I let him know."
Afterward, Beckett kept his response brief when asked about the heated exchange.
"Yeah, it was a lot of stuff," Beckett said. "It kind of goes back before today. Those things have a way of working themselves out, though."
As Lofton headed toward Beckett, both benches and bullpens emptied and players spilled onto the field. Varitek said he wasn't sure what initiated the incident, which concluded nearly as quickly as it began.
"I have no earthly idea. I'm watching the fly ball," Varitek said. "I don't know, to be honest with you. [Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis] was there, and I turned to make sure nothing escalated coming from the dugout."
Boston third baseman Mike Lowell also headed toward the mound in an effort to make sure Beckett and Lofton didn't come to blows.
"I heard Kenny say, 'You said something to me first,'" Lowell said. "I just wanted to get in between, because Kenny's valuable to their team and Josh is valuable to our team. I don't think you want to see anyone miss time over that. They're both intense. Their emotions probably get the best of them."
Cederstrom intervened, as did personnel from both sides, and Lofton and Beckett were kept apart. Lofton was pushed away by Cleveland first-base coach Luis Rivera and escorted off the field by third-base coach Joel Skinner while Boston manager Terry Francona worked on calming down Beckett.
"I think there was just a little verbiage back and forth, and nothing happened," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "Both teams run out, look at each other, and both teams ran back."
That didn't mean that some of the players on Cleveland's side weren't upset with Beckett's verbal attack at Lofton. During Game 4 of the series, Boston's Manny Ramirez threw both arms up and watched a solo home run sail over the fence, irking some of the Indians.
"We didn't say anything about Manny's reaction to his homer," Indians catcher Victor Matinez said. "I don't know what [Beckett] had to say to Kenny. He always does that. If you don't like it, what can you do?"
At the time of the fracas, Indians first baseman Ryan Garko was inside the clubhouse watching footage of his last at-bat. He and teammate Chris Gomez caught wind of the confrontation and tried to hustle out to the field to get a closer look at what was going on.
"As a player, there's no dumber feeling than being the last guy to run out on the field," Garko said. "We come out there, and you try to act like you're mad, but you don't know what's happening. By the time you get there, the situation is already cooled down. It's a dumb feeling. You feel like, 'I should have just stayed down there watching film.'"
After the incident cooled down, Beckett went back to work, striking out Cleveland's Franklin Gutierrez for the second out. Casey Blake and Grady Sizemore followed with singles before Beckett struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to end the inning.
From there, Beckett cruised through eight strong innings, forcing the series to head back to Boston for Game 6 on Saturday. If the ALCS heads to a seventh contest, Beckett and Lofton may meet up once again if Beckett is used in relief of Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.