Are the Yankees and Rays at it again?
An up-and-in fastball to Gio Urshela after Giancarlo Stanton’s grand slam in the ninth inning of Monday’s Game 1 of the ALDS;
Another one to Gleyber Torres later in the inning, followed by a steal of second by Torres with the Yankees leading by six runs;
And even Pedro Martinez – who knows a thing or two or six about brushback pitches when it comes to the Yankees – deciding he just has to weigh in.
If the Yankees and Rays do renew their heated rivalry with inside fastballs and basebrawls during this ALDS, the seeds will have been planted during the ninth inning of Monday’s 9-3 Yankees victory at Petco Park in San Diego.
Stanton’s majestic grand slam to centerfield off John Curtiss gave the Yankees a 9-3 lead. Stanton watched the blast as he walked to first base, but it wasn’t as emphatic as some of the other poses around baseball these days.
Two pitches later, Curtiss threw a fastball up and in to Urshela, who hurried out of the way and finished the at-bat by popping out to shortstop.
Torres, the next batter, watched a 94-mile per hour fastball from Curtiss come near his chin on 2-and-2. Torres singled, and then stole second base on the first pitch thrown by lefthander Shane McClanahan, who became the first pitcher in MLB history to make his big-league debut in a postseason game.
After the game on Monday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone was asked if he made a mental note of the tight pitch to Urshela considering the Yankees and Rays years-long penchant for brushback episodes and nasty exchanges.
"No," he said. "There’s no time for [that]. We’re just putting our best foot forward. I didn’t take anything away from that."
But before Tuesday’s Game 2, Boone changed his tune a tad.
"I didn’t realize how close it was," he said. "Saw it later . . . Our focus is really on the game and trying to do what we can to not get distracted by that and just try and win these games."
Urshela, asked about the pitch before Game 2, said he did not take exception with getting dusted.
"No," he said. "Not really."
And Rays manager Kevin Cash said he didn’t have a problem with Torres stealing second with a six-run lead.
"None whatsoever,’’ Cash said before Game 2. "We’d be doing the same thing, I assure you."
So everyone said the right things. It remains to be seen if both sides can continue to do the right things during the remainder of the hot-blooded five-game series.
The Yankees have certainly had brawls in the postseason before. Remember the 2003 ALCS, when Martinez grabbed a charging coach Don Zimmer by his bald head and threw the 72-year-old to the ground during an on-field fracas?
Sure you do.
Martinez is now a commentator on the TBS pre and postgame shows. After Game 1, the Hall of Famer took a shot at Torres for stealing second.
"You respect the opposition, because you expect them to respect you,’’ Martinez said. "And what you do is you add fuel to the fire, and later on if they bust you back, don’t think that they don’t respect you or they don’t like you. It was just that -- that was a terrible mistake. I hope you learn, and the next time just don’t do that."
Torres did not appear in the Yankees’ post-game Zoom interview room on Monday or in the pre-game Zoom room on Tuesday. So we all had to wait to find out if he agrees that stealing in that situation was a violation of baseball’s unwritten rules about rubbing it in with a big lead.