TORONTO – Brett Lawrie called it an "unlucky bounce." Major League Baseball is likely to call it a suspension.
A furious Lawrie slammed his batting helmet to the ground after he took strike three and it struck plate umpire Bill Miller in the hip as the ninth inning turned nasty Tuesday night in Toronto's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
"That was not my intention at all," Lawrie said. "I've never, ever done anything to go at an umpire before in my life, and I didn't mean to tonight. I apologize for that.
"It's just my passion for the game," he said. "I wanted to help my teammates out as best I could. That's the pride I have in this game. I leave my emotions out on the field."
Miller was later hit by a drink thrown by a fan while walking off the field after the game.
The trouble began with one out in the ninth and Lawrie trying to work a walk off Rays closer Fernando Rodney. On a 3-1 pitch, Lawrie started toward first base but was stopped short as Miller called strike two. Rodney stared in at Lawrie, and Miller helped settle the tension.
On a full-count pitch that he thought was ball four, Lawrie again headed toward first base. When Miller called strike three, Lawrie crouched in disbelief. Lawrie dropped his bat, gestured at Miller and shouted, and was ejected.
Lawrie then started toward Miller, wound up with his right arm and threw down his helmet. It bounced at the umpire's feet and ricocheted up into him.
"Upon seeing that he was ejected, he took several steps toward me and fired his helmet. It hit me in the right hip," Miller said.
"That's a bit extreme," Miller said.
Miller said he has already filed his report with MLB about the incident.
Lawrie said he felt Miller made "kind of a late call" on strike three.
Toronto manager John Farrell came out to restrain his 22-year-old third baseman, who's in his first full season in the majors. After Lawrie returned to the dugout, Farrell was ejected for arguing the call.
"The bat was taken completely out of Brett's hands, not only the 3-1 pitch but the 3-2 pitch as well," Farrell said. "Those are not strikes."
Miller was hit by a drink as he left the field. Police and stadium security were seen pointing into the crowd after that incident, and Miller shouted something at the fan before exiting.
The testy ending overshadowed another comeback win for the Rays. David Price won for the fifth time in six starts, Sean Rodriguez homered as Tampa Bay rallied from a 3-0 deficit.
After losing four of their first five games on this trip to New York, Baltimore and Toronto, the Rays ended it with three straight wins, persevering even as they placed two more players on the disabled list. Outfielder Desmond Jennings (left knee) and right-hander Jeff Niemann (fractured right leg) are the latest injury victims, leaving Tampa Bay with eight players on the DL.
"We could have easily gone 1-7 on this road trip," Price said. "I feel like that was a pretty good road trip for us, especially with us dealing with the injuries that we're dealing with right now."
Price, coming off a loss at the New York Yankees, continued his mastery of the Blue Jays. The left-hander is 11-2 with a 2.26 ERA in 14 career starts against Toronto, including a 5-0 mark in six starts north of the border.
Price (6-2) allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings, ending his outing by retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced. He struck out six with no walks.
Joel Peralta worked the eighth and Rodney closed it out in the ninth to remain perfect in 11 save opportunities.
Edwin Encarnacion homered for the Blue Jays, who made a season-high four errors. Toronto has lost three straight and seven of 10.
Not all Toronto's defense was poor. Encarnacion fell into the seats to catch B.J. Upton's foul popup in the first, and left fielder Rajai Davis threw out Ben Zobrist at the plate to end the third with a strong one-hop throw to catcher Jeff Mathis.
Having helped keep the Rays off the scoreboard, Davis promptly helped put the Blue Jays on it, leading off the bottom half with an infield single, taking second on a throwing error by shortstop Elliot Johnson, stealing third and scoring on a two-out single by Jose Bautista. Encarnacion followed with a first-pitch homer to center, his 12th of the season.
The Rays got their comeback started in the fifth when Will Rhymes led off with a single and scored on Zobrist's two-out double, a ball that dropped in front of Toronto center fielder Colby Rasmus, who broke back on the play and couldn't recover.
Tampa Bay took the lead and chased Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez (3-3) with a three-run seventh, taking advantage of two Toronto errors. Rodriguez led off with his third homer, a drive to center, and Rhymes followed with a single.
Jose Molina hit a grounder to short, but both runners were safe when shortstop Yunel Escobar fumbled the ball. Johnson followed with a single to left that Davis dropped for the second error, allowing Rhymes to score without a throw. Zobrist singled off the glove of second baseman Kelly Johnson, loading the bases for Upton, who grounded into a double play that brought Molina home with the tiebreaking run.
NOTES: The Rays placed RHP Jeff Niemann (fractured right leg) on the 15-day DL and recalled RHP Josh Lueke from Triple-A Durham. The 6-foot-9 Niemann is using a pair of crutches borrowed from the NBA's Toronto Raptors. ... Rays manager Joe Maddon said minor leaguers Alex Cobb and Chris Archer are candidates to start when Niemann's turn in the rotation comes up next for Saturday's game against Atlanta. ... Rays OF/DH Hideki Matsui played his first game at Triple-A Durham Tuesday night, batting fourth. He went hitless in four at-bats and struck out once.