ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia, in the middle of a one-hitter and two innings shy of earning a $500,000 incentive-based bonus, was ejected from Thursday afternoon's game at Tropicana Field.
Sabathia entered Thursday's game having pitched 148 innings this season. In what will be his final start of the year, he needed to last through the seventh in order to make it to 155 innings and receive the bonus.
"I don't really make decisions based on money, I guess," Sabathia said after the Yankees' 12-1 win over the Rays. "Just felt like it was the right thing to do."
Carapazza had issued warnings minutes prior, following a pitch in the top of the inning from Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge that sailed behind Yankees catcher Austin Romine's head. After the warnings, the next batter to be thrown at or hit would lead to ejections.
"Any time you feel like your player's safety is in jeopardy, all guys take exception to that," Sabathia said.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who said he didn't see the original warning issued from Carapazza, understood why his pitcher felt he needed to retaliate for Kittredge's errant pitch.
"There's no question there was intent. You've had some guys hit this series, and then you throw one over the head? Just kick rocks. I hated it," said Boone, who once played with Sabathia while with the Cleveland Indians. "If you're going to play that game and you start messing around with people's heads, we're going to take exception to that."
Earlier in the game, Rays first baseman Jake Bauers was hit by a pitch. The day before, Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier suffered a hairline fracture when a slider from Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka hit his right foot.
It was just after Kittredge's ball went whizzing past Romine when Sabathia emerged from the Yankees' dugout and yelled in the direction of his opposing pitcher. As Sabathia jawed at the pitcher, Romine, who hit the dirt because of the pitch, dusted himself off and had what he called a "conversation between catchers" with Sucre.
Once that half-inning ended with the Yankees scoring four runs to extend their lead to 11-0, Sabathia's yelling resumed in the bottom of the sixth, and he was ejected after his very first pitch of the inning plunked Sucre.
This was Sabathia's fifth ejection of his career, and his second this season. He also was ejected from the dugout at Toronto on July 7.
As he was walking off the mound following the ejection, Sabathia turned toward the Rays dugout, pointed and shouted: "That was for you, b----." It was unclear toward whom specifically he was directing his anger. Then, feet from the Yankees' dugout, Sabathia made a motion toward his crotch as he glanced back at the Rays dugout.
"I don't even remember what I said," Sabathia later said. "I was just yelling."
Cameras caught some surprised Tampa Bay players. Rays pitcher Blake Snell was seen motioning with his hands and saying: "It's 11-0. Why?"
Around the same time, Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge positioned himself along the first-base line near the Rays dugout, attempting to keep the peace. Eventually, he started laughing with Rays pitcher Sergio Romo as the Rays stood outside the dugout.
"You never know what's going to happen with stuff like that," Judge said. "You never know if someone's going to run out, or if someone's going to do something. So you just got to be prepared, and be able to protect your teammates."
Following the game, the Yankees traveled to Boston, where they will begin a three-game series with the Red Sox to close out the regular season. When the rivals met at Fenway Park in April, then-Yankee Tyler Austin was hit by a pitch that caused a benches-clearing brawl.
Thursday's fireworks overshadowed an otherwise dominant outing from Sabathia, who earned his 246th career win. He's now 50th on baseball's all-time wins list, passing Dennis Martinez and tying Joe McGinnity. Sabathia's 129 wins as a Yankee puts him in sole possession of 11th place on the franchise's all-time list.
"He looked like he was playing catch out there with Romine out there," Boone said. "It was really exciting to see him so on top of his game, especially this time of year."
Across five-plus innings, Sabathia allowed just one hit and struck out five on only 55 pitches.
"I was trying to get him through nine at that point," Romine said.
Sabathia's teammates don't believe the 18-year veteran has to earn their respect any more than he already has. Still, they were appreciative of the gesture of protecting them, even while forfeiting so much money.
"He doesn't need to do something like that, or I don't need to see something like I saw [Thursday] to change the way I think of him as a teammate or as a person," outfielder Brett Gardner said. "I was just sad to see him leave the game like that as well as he was throwing the ball."
Added Romine: "He's the same guy to every guy. He has a tremendous amount of respect from everybody in here. He's a good human being. He's a hell of a baseball player, who's had a hell of a career.
"There's just something about some people, the way they carry themselves. The way they act. The way they treat people. I don't know too many better people."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn't rule out Sabathia getting into a game this weekend in Boston.
"That's definitely above my pay grade," Boone said when asked whether New York should still pay the bonus.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.