Rangers beat Rays 6-3 to avoid sweep

ARLINGTON, Texas —Now the Tampa Bay Rays are fighting among themselves.

Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza and catcher Dioner Navarro had to be separated in the dugout—minutes after an angry confrontation on the mound—in a 6-3 loss at Texas in which Tampa Bay missed a chance for its first series sweep on the road this season.

“This wasn’t pretty today. It was a bad day all around,” left fielder Carl Crawford said.

“It was nothing, in-house kind of stuff, things that happen on occasion and we took care of it,” manager Joe Maddon insisted, without being specific. “It was shoving, that was it. It’s been taken care of.”

After Rangers No. 9 hitter German Duran hit a two-run homer for a 3-0 lead in the fourth, Garza and Navarro had a heated exchange on the mound, sticking their gloves into each other’s face. Pitching coach Jim Hickey pushed Navarro back toward the plate when he visited the mound.

When the inning ended, Garza approached Navarro in the dugout. Television cameras caught them face-to-face in a scuffle that spilled into the tunnel leading to the clubhouse. Maddon, Hickey and others rushed to break up the fracas.

“It was just something that happened in the game and it’s been taken care of,” Navarro said. “It happens in the family. … We’re fine. We’re brothers, a whole family. The oldest brother gets into fights sometimes. It’s been straightened out.”

Jason Hammel took over on the mound in the fifth, while Navarro remained in the game. Garza gave up three runs and six hits with two strikeouts.

“Just keep it in house and fix it. That’s about it,” Garza said, after meeting behind closed doors with Maddon for about 20 minutes. “We’re both competitors. Whatever happens stays here and we’ll definitely fix it.”

Hickey said he didn’t know if the disagreement was “over pitch selection or whatever. Obviously it was something that was bothering them.”

The scuffle between pitcher and catcher came only three days after Tampa Bay was involved in a bench-clearing brawl at Boston.

Not only did Tampa Bay get swept in the three-game series by the Red Sox to lose their 10-day hold on the AL East lead, the Rays had five players suspended for a total of 23 games that were staggered. Jonny Gomes served the second of his five-game suspension Sunday.

Tampa Bay (37-26) dropped 1 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East after losing to Texas, which got home runs from David Murphy, Duran and Ramon Vazquez on a day that Josh Hamilton and Michael Young were out of the lineup.

“That shows how versatile and how capable our offense is with those two guys, the nucleus of our offense, out,” Murphy said. “We’ve got some other guys that can do some things too.”

Murphy batted in the No. 3 spot in place of Hamilton, who leads the AL in home runs and the majors in RBIs. Hamilton had a viral infection. The Rangers never trailed after Murphy pulled a solo homer down the right-field line in the first off Garza (4-3).

“I was just trying to do my best Josh Hamilton impression,” Murphy said, smiling.

Rookie right-hander Doug Mathis (2-1) allowed five hits over 5 1-3 innings, leaving after B.J. Upton’s two-run homer got the Rays to 4-2.

Duran, recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma on Sunday, started at third base while regular third baseman Vazquez played shortstop for Young, who was out of the lineup for the second time in three games. Vazquez homered in the eighth.

Young has a 22-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this season. He returned to the lineup Saturday night after missing a game because of a hairline fracture in his left ring finger but left because of tightness in his groin.

Manager Ron Washington said Young only had soreness and should be back in the lineup in the next game, Tuesday night at Kansas City. Hamilton is expected to play then as well.

Milton Bradley, who raised his AL-leading on-base percentage to .456 with three walks and a single, scored after reaching to lead off the fifth and seventh innings. Bradley had a single in the fifth and scored on Gerald Laird’s single, then had a leadoff walk and a stolen base in the seventh before coming home on a single by Marlon Byrd to make it 5-2.

Frank Francisco relieved Mathis after Upton’s homer and got Eric Hinske on a called third strike. Hinske got ejected by home plate umpire James Hoye after arguing, then slammed his helmet to the ground and had a few more heated words before leaving.

“I let him know that I thought it was a ball, that it was a bad call,” Hinske said. “It was kind of an ugly game. We want to just put this game behind us.”