Francona on melee: Indians took liberties

BOSTON -- The benches cleared and players milled around near home plate in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s Red Sox-Indians game after Cleveland reliever Jensen Lewis’ first pitch sailed behind Adrian Beltre.

Boston starter Josh Beckett seemed particularly angered, gesturing and trying to get at Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan. Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale held back Beckett, who after being pushed away from the pack picked up a batting helmet and slammed it to the ground.

After things had seemingly cooled off and players started to head to their respective benches and bullpens, another outburst erupted, this time with Red Sox manager Terry Francona having to be held back. The object of his ire was Cleveland third-base coach Steve Smith.

Lewis and Smith were ejected by plate umpire Tim Welke, as was Beckett.

The seeds of this animated and spirited gathering seemed to have been sown in the first inning when Beckett plunked Duncan on the leg. Maybe it was a coincidence, but Duncan had four hits in the Indians’ victory over the Sox on Monday night.

Cleveland outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was drilled on his right knee by a Beckett fastball in the third. Otherwise, Beckett had impeccable control, walking none in his sparkling eight-inning performance. After being tended to at home plate, Choo got up off the dirt, took first base and promptly stole second base on Beckett’s next pitch.

In the seventh, Cleveland pitcher Justin Germano threw a pitch behind the knees of David Ortiz. The Sox designated hitter hesitated, apparently deciding not to go to the mound. In the eighth, though, when Lewis’ pitch sailed behind Beltre, the Red Sox third baseman had to be held off by Welke and Cleveland catcher Lou Marson, as the benches and bullpens emptied.

Neither Francona nor Beckett was interested in talking at length about the disagreement.

“I thought they were taking some liberties. Everyone has their own opinion. It gets hot out there sometimes,” said Francona, generally not one to lose his temper the way he did.

“I thought they had players who had a feel for the game,” Beckett said cryptically.

Pressed to define what he meant, Beckett remained vague.

“There are some people who have a feel for the game and some who don’t,” said Beckett.

Asked if he thought he had a feel for the game, Beckett replied, “My feel’s pretty good.”

Papelbon perfect

Jonathan Papelbon racked up his 25th save with a spotless ninth, becoming the first player in major league history with at least 25 saves in each of his first five seasons . . . David Ortiz’s dribbler that hit the third-base bag in the third extended his hitting streak to 12 games. He is batting .320 with four homers and 12 RBIs over that stretch . . . Bill Hall’s homer was his sixth in his last 19 games . . . Rookie Ryan Kalish went 2-for-3 and now has seven hits in his first four big-league games . . . Beckett, who gave up only three hits over eight innings, and Papelbon combined to retire the final 17 Indians.