"I think he lost his cool," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "I don't think there's any other way to put it without saying something that shouldn't be said. I can tell you very honestly [that] it's going to be addressed. ... He knew the boundaries when he pitched for me in the Minor Leagues. I'm just glad Pedroia didn't get hurt, to be honest with you."
Everything seemed placid at the start of the fourth, but it degenerated with two outs and Coco Crisp on third base. Crisp moved in between third and home, momentarily distracting Cabrera and causing the pitcher to balk in the Sox's third run. The next pitch was behind Pedroia and head high, causing a few cries of protest to arise from the visiting dugout.
Home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro immediately warned both dugouts, and Boston manager Terry Francona, infielder Kevin Youkilis and outfielder Bobby Kielty all started screaming out toward the mound. Some players trickled out of both dugouts, but that quickly became a stream when Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez got involved in an animated argument with the Boston bench.
"I don't think we escalated anything," Francona said after the game. "I have my hands full trying to de-escalate things. I mean, we're in the middle of a pennant race. We have more important things to worry about. Our focal point was to win."
"I didn't lose my temper. I didn't lose nothing," Cabrera said of the incident and its immediate aftermath. "Everybody knows my game is to throw inside and the ball can slip out of my hand, and that happened today."
Hernandez declined repeated requests for comment after the game, but nearly everyone else addressed the issue. Several Red Sox players, including Crisp and Pedroia, clearly felt the high-and-tight pitch was on purpose and meant to send a message.
"It just made him look even more stupid doing that," said Pedroia, Boston's rookie second baseman. "I was hoping he stayed in the game. I was just concentrating on hitting another line drive off him."
"Even if you do lose your cool right there, you still can't try to hit somebody in the head," Crisp said. "Even if you decide for some reason that you are going to hit somebody, you can't hit him in the head, because you could kill somebody, man -- and a lot of people would be hurt. It goes beyond being embarrassed or whatever happens in a game.
"He throws hard. He throws 100 mph. He was gifted with an arm. You can't use that to hurt somebody."
"Obviously, he was upset that he balked a run in," said Boston third baseman Mike Lowell. "I think he lost his composure. I'm sure he'd say the same thing. When guys throw as hard as he does, you have to be careful. If he hits [Pedroia] in the head, he could split him in two. That's not right. It's not our fault he balked the run in."
Most of those sentiments were relayed to Cabrera on the field, albeit in saltier language. Players from both sides flooded the field, and both bullpens emptied and ran in to support their teammates. Things started to die down after a few tense moments, but everything ignited all over again when Cabrera decided he wanted a piece of someone near the Boston bench.
First-base umpire Bill Welke was standing in between Cabrera and the Red Sox and had a firm grasp of the pitcher's jersey, but the hulking right-hander fought free, nearly ripping his jersey in the process. Third baseman Melvin Mora interceded and cooler heads eventually prevailed, but not before Cabrera had done enough to get himself ejected.
Cabrera refused to discuss what was said to him, but he intimated that he doesn't believe he has a reputation as a headhunter.
"I don't want to speak for him, but my understanding is that he was upset at some of the comments that were being directed toward him," Trembley said. "Those guys should come to the forefront and tell you what they did. Obviously, Ramon got upset, because he thought people were popping off from the dugout. He could probably give it to you a little bit better than I can."
"The good thing about that is nobody got hit. Whatever happened, I think it's over," said Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada. "This is a young guy, and he's going to learn. He's a great kid, and I hope that people from Boston don't think he's a bad guy. ... I bet you tomorrow when he wakes up, he's going to be thinking about that and he'll learn from that."
Trembley had an extended discussion with the umpires in an effort to keep his pitcher in the game, but he was rebuffed. Cabrera, who stood near the mound for most of that argument, had the ball taken from him twice before being told of his ejection.
Kevin Cash, Boston's backup catcher, was also ejected from the game. Crew chief Wally Bell explained his perspective after the game, saying that Cabrera's behavior during the on-field altercation sealed his fate.
"After warnings were issued, then the melee started on the field," Bell said. "We, as an umpiring crew, were trying to break up several little differences and things happening on the field. Once everything was cleared up and we restored order, we got together as a crew and we discussed what we had. So as a discussion as a crew, the ejections occurred."
Perhaps the most succinct explanation came from Youkilis, who summed up Boston's objections.
"You can't let your emotions play into having a chance to injure somebody," Youkilis said of the apparent brushback. "It's frustrating when you have a balk, but you can't justify it by getting angry and hitting somebody. ... To me that's dumb. I think you can't go out there and do stuff like that. If you want to play that game, you're going to get somebody hurt."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.