Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia knows how it appeared.
New York's Francisco Cervelli homers, claps his hands demonstratively while crossing the plate and gets plunked in his very next at-bat.
It was not, Saltalamacchia said, intentional. The Red Sox were much more concerned with the 16 runners left on base than Cervelli's antics in a 5-2 loss to the Yankees.
"We had no intent on hitting him. It just happened that way," Saltalamacchia said. "I understand how it can look bad."
Saltalamacchia stayed face-to-face with Cervelli as he threatened to charge Boston starter John Lackey in the seventh with the Yankees leading 4-2. Both benches cleared, although at a very slow pace hardly fitting any rivalry, let alone this one.
Cervelli was one of four players hit in the game, but the frustration seemed more likely to come from the other dugout after a dominant start by New York's CC Sabathia (18-7), who got his first win against Boston this season.
"We tried our best to wear him down but he kept making pitches," Boston's Dustin Pedroia said. "The times we got guys on base in the previous games we got that big hit. Tonight we didn't do that."
Elsewhere in the AL it was: Baltimore 6 Toronto 5 (10 innings); Texas 2 Tampa Bay 0; Detroit 2 Kansas City 1 (10 innings); Chicago 8 Minnesota 6; Cleveland 6 Oakland 2; and Los Angeles 13 Seattle 6.
At Boston, the Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but failed to score. Clutch hits did not come as the Yankees pulled within a half-game of Boston with two games left in the series.
The win was the Yankees' third in 13 games against their AL East rival this season.
Lackey (12-10) allowed five runs — four earned — on seven hits and four walks, striking out three. Nick Swisher had three hits, and Francisco Cervelli hit a solo homer in the fifth.
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his 35th save.
When Cervelli came up again in the seventh, Lackey hit him in the back, sparking a bench-clearing staredown. In the first inning, Curtis Granderson took one off the end of the bat — or the hand, depending on whom you believe — and then Sabathia plunked Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off the bottom half.
After getting hit, Cervelli moved toward the mound as the dugouts slowly emptied and home plate umpire Ed Rapuano tried to maintain order. There was nothing more than jawing back and forth, and in the end Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was ejected.
"It's part of the game," Cervelli said. "Yankees-Boston, everybody wants to win."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi watched the final out from the clubhouse. He was tossed after Rivera hit Jarrod Saltalamacchia with two outs in the ninth.
"It's an emotional game. I don't understand why (Cervelli) got hit, but it's part of the game," Girardi said. "Cervy plays with a lot of emotion. that's who he is."
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the second and made it 3-0 in the fourth when Robinson Cano hit an RBI double and scored on Eric Chavez's single. After Boston cut the lead to 3-2 on Carl Crawford's homer and an RBI double by Marco Scutaro, New York added Cervelli's solo homer in the fifth and Derek Jeter's run-scoring double play in the seventh that made it 5-2.
The Red Sox had 13 hits in all, but Saltalamacchia stranded seven and Adrian Gonzalez stranded five; each struck out three times. It was also a rough day at the plate for Jorge Posada, who left five men on and grounded into a pair of double plays, and Jeter, who returned after missing two games with a bruised kneecap, grounded out five times.
Orioles 6 Blue Jays 5 (10 innings)
At Baltimore, Ryan Adams capped a two-run, 10th-inning rally with an RBI single for the Orioles, who have won seven of their last nine games.
Rangers 2 Rays 0
At Arlington, Texas, Josh Hamilton hit a towering home run and Scott Feldman threw six scoreless innings in a spot start for AL West-leading Texas.
Tigers 2 Royals 1 (10 innings)
At Detroit, Ramon Santiago homered in the bottom of the 10th inning, leaving Tigers starter Doug Fister with a no decision after he retired the first 18 batters he faced.
White Sox 8 Twins 6
At Chicago, Alejandro De Aza drove in a career-high four runs for the White Sox, including a three-run homer.
Indians 6 Athletics 2
At Cleveland, Carlos Santana and Jack Hannahan hit two-run homers to help the Indians win their fourth in five games.
Angels 13 Mariners 6
At Seattle, Mike Trout, the youngest player in the majors at 20 years and 23 days, homered twice and drove in five runs to lead Los Angeles.