BOSTON -- It was looking like the Red Sox would breeze to a simple 10-3 win over the last-place Orioles on Friday night at Fenway Park, until Baltimore closer Kevin Gregg tossed three straight inside pitches to David Ortiz, eventually resulting in a benches-clearing melee and four ejections.
After the third pitch, which Ortiz had to avoid getting hit by, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound designated hitter walked to the mound pointing and yelling at Gregg. Both benches and bullpens emptied, and while both sides were warned, no one was ejected.
On the next pitch, with the count at 3-0, Ortiz flung a shallow fly ball into center field and started jogging to first base when Gregg yelled something his way. Gregg was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook, but Ortiz charged the pitcher anyway, dodging a head-high punch from Gregg before the two scrapped briefly and both benches cleared again.
"To me, it's a situation," Gregg said. "Ortiz, the place to get him out is in. You have to pitch him in. The first pitch wasn't too far off the corner, and he jumped away like it was at his head. Next pitch was a little bit further in. He didn't like it, he stared at me. I'm still going to go in there to try and pitch in there and because I'm not going to let him lean over the plate like he did to [Brad Bergesen] and hit a line-drive ball back up the middle, or he's hitting stuff off the wall. He's real comfortable in there."
Gregg said he was frustrated that Ortiz didn't run to first base after hitting a lazy fly ball to center with a seven-run lead.
"They are going to whine and complain about it because they think they are better than everybody else," Gregg said. "But no, we have just as much right to pitch inside as they do. Everybody's frustrated. It's part of the game."
Ortiz, who was also ejected, was unavailable to reporters after the game, but his teammates felt differently about Gregg's inside pitches.
"Is that what he was trying to do?" Darnell McDonald asked about Gregg. "He was just trying to pitch inside? No, he wasn't trying to [pitch inside]. When you've been in the league a long time, you have a feeling if somebody's trying to pitch inside or he's trying to hit you. Obviously, Papi thought he was trying to hit him."
Josh Beckett, who pitched five innings before leaving for precautionary reasons with a mildly hyperextended left knee, felt that Gregg, if not both players, should have been ejected after the third pitch of the at-bat, when Ortiz walked out to the mound.
"The rule is, if something happens and you leave the mound, you're automatically ejected," Beckett said. "It wasn't handled that way and now we got other guys probably going to get fined. Even if [Estabrook] throws David and [Gregg] out on the third time he tries to hit him, none of that happens."
Beckett said he hoped Gregg wasn't just taking frustration out on Ortiz after the Sox had scored eight runs in the first inning, forcing starter Zach Britton out of the game after two-thirds of an inning.
"We're a good hitting team," Beckett said. "You can't just be hitting our ... guys because we're scoring a lot of runs. That's how the game is played. Maybe they saw something different. Maybe they saw something they didn't like or whatever. But if it's just because we scored eight runs in the first inning and they start throwing at our ... guys, it's going to be a long year."
Boston outfielder Josh Reddick was on third base when Ortiz hit the fly ball, but once he turned around to try to tag, he heard the stadium erupt and immediately fled for the on-field brawl. He was called out on the play for leaving the baseline, thus ending the inning.
"In that situation, you have to go out there and help your teammates out," Reddick said. "Luckily we had a nice little lead, so it didn't really hurt us that much. You don't want to get that bad mark above your head for not going out and helping your team out in that type of situation.
"[Chemistry] is a huge thing here in the clubhouse. Fans might not recognize that kind of thing, but there's a lot of chemistry that goes on here in this locker room."
Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was also ejected during the scrum, though he wasn't sure why after the game and said he would make phone calls Saturday to figure that out. Baltimore reliever Jim Johnson was ejected for aggressive behavior.
Orioles' outfielder Nick Markakis said he thought Ortiz was out of line for charging Gregg.
"It's a 3-0 pitch, two outs and you have a guy tagging up and a guy swinging at a 3-0 pitch in a [seven-run] game," Markakis said. "It doesn't make sense. [Ortiz] knows the game better than that. Put them on our side and us on their side. It's a little bush league. Like I said, I'm sure he's going to look back and realize that he made a mistake, especially charging our pitcher, regardless of what was said."
No players or coaches from either side appeared to be hurt after the game, though Red Sox first-base coach Ron Johnson was on the ground in the middle of the pile at one point. McDonald said falling down when a brawl occurs is the worst thing that you can do, though Johnson said after the game that he was fine.
The Orioles have now lost nine of their last 10 games, marking their 50th loss of the season.
"You get tired of getting your butt kicked every night when you come in here," Gregg said. "I'm going to stick up for what's ours and try to get the plate back. I think we showed them that we are not backing down. We are not scared of them and their $180 million payroll. We don't care. We are here to play the game. We have just as much right to play the game here, and we are going to do everything we can to win."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he had no idea if Ortiz had been suspended after the game.
"I'm sure they'll do what they've got to do," he said.
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.