Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was plunked in the back of the leg during the third inning causing two bench-clearing incidents and more than a 10-minute delay, but that's when things were just getting started for New York.
Jorge Posada came to bat after things had finally calmed down and promptly hit a two-run double to left that helped set the tone for New York's 9-2 victory over Toronto on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.
"I was fired up about that," Rodriguez said. "That was awesome. I think we made them pay a lot tonight and Posada's double set the tone."
The drilling from Toronto's Josh Towers marked the second time in two nights the Jays have thrown at Rodriguez. On Monday afternoon, Rodriguez just barely got out of the way of a pitch thrown by right-hander Jesse Litsch.
There's been bad blood surrounding the two teams dating back to May 30, when Rodriguez confused two Toronto infielders by yelling something as he rounded third base. At the time, Jays third baseman Howie Clark had been settling under a pop fly but thought his shortshop had been calling him off and allowed the ball to drop. That occurred more than two months ago, though, and the Yankees thought it had been settled a long time ago.
While the incident on Tuesday got the better of the Blue Jays emotions, Posada's double refocused the Yankees, who turned their sights towards picking up a fifth consecutive victory.
"We've been a pretty emotional club this year," manager Joe Torre said. "The important thing when you have something like that going on, is that you keep it manageable. Because sometimes you can get so emotional it gets in the way of what you need to do. But Jorge was very determined, had a great at-bat, and we just kept going from there."
"You try and concentrate on the game and it's tough to do," Posada admitted. "Adrenaline's flowing, and you just stay within yourself and concentrate on what you want to do."
The Bombers tacked on two more runs over the next two frames before chasing Towers (5-9) from the game. Toronto's right-hander left in the sixth inning after surrendering five runs on nine hits over five-plus innings of work.
If the on field altercation helped spark the Yankees offense, then it definitely helped light a fire under New York starter Roger Clemens. The Rocket cruised through the first six innings of the game, allowing just one run on two hits en route to one of his best outings of the season. At one point, between the second and sixth innings, Clemens retired 13 batters in a row.
"He pitched real well," Derek Jeter said. "You really can't ask for him to do much more. The offense over there, they can swing the bats one through nine, and he was pretty much in control the whole time."
Clemens came out to start the seventh inning with a seven-run lead, but his night came to an end after he was ejected for hitting Jays right fielder Alex Rios with a four-seam fastball in the back.
If Clemens' pitch was intentional, Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun is one player who wasn't about to place blame on him for it.
"He's a warrior," Zaun said. "He's not going to stand by and let guys take shots at his players. I certainly understand the way they felt about that situation and I would expect nothing less from him. He's going to protect his players."
Despite his early exit, Clemens picked up his 24th career victory against the Jays, which is the most of any pitcher in Major League history. It also marks a dramatic turn around from his last start, when he allowed eight runs on nine hits over just 1 2/3 innings.
Clemens (4-5) said after watching video of his last start he slightly changed the mechanics of his delivery to help improve the way he releases his pitches. It's an example of the type of adjustments Clemens has had to consciously make in order to try and get back to his old form.
"I think I've just come to know it's going to be this way all the way through," Clemens said. "It's a lot of work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I wouldn't be back here if I didn't think that would be the case."
Torre also received an automatic ejection in the seventh inning because both clubs were playing under a warning after the third frame. It's possible that both Torre and Clemens could be hit with a suspension from Major League Baseball as a result of the ejections.
"I don't have any control over that," Clemens said. "Obviously, I hope not, and it is what it is."
And as for Rodriguez, he left the game in the eighth inning because of a tight calf muscle from where he was hit in the leg, although Torre said he expects him to be in the lineup tomorrow.
"It got me pretty good," Rodriguez said. "We'll see how I wake up in the morning. It just hit me in the calf, straight up."
Lost in the shuffle of Tuesday night's fireworks is that the Yankees (63-50) have won eight of their last nine games and remain just a 1/2 game out of first place in the American League Wild Card race. The victory also moved them to within five games of the AL-East leading Red Sox.
"I'm glad we won two games," Rodriguez said referring to his team's success so far in Toronto. "The only focus here is to win games. We'll use every motivation that we can."
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less