ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - For the Yankees, enough was enough.

With the vision of Chase Headley taking a Jake McGee fastball off his chin Thursday fresh in their minds, things reached a boiling point Tuesday night when a pitch hit Derek Jeter in the hand in the eighth inning.

It touched off a sequence of events that almost overshadowed a 6-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The game instead was most memorable for a bench-clearing incident, three ejections and some incendiary words from the Yankees, losers of five of their last six.

"Five times in four games we've been hit,'' Girardi said, referencing three times by Tampa pitching. "I'm all for pitching inside, but you need to know how to pitch inside because it's extremely dangerous. Chase Headley is lucky that he's OK. I don't know what they expect. You hit five of our guys in four games, you don't think we're going to be ---- ?''

The Yankees (76-74) made it clear they are.

Headley was blunt when asked if something might carry over into tonight. "I know that emotions are high,'' he said, "so I can't say whether something's going to happen or not.''

Headley, like Girardi, took issue with what the Yankees feel is a degree of recklessness by Rays pitchers.

"I'm not saying there's any intent, but if you're going to pitch, you need to be able to control the ball,'' Headley said. "I think that's what the guys in this clubhouse are irritated with. I think everybody's tired of getting hit.''

Said Jeter: "There's frustration when guys get continually hit, just like there's frustration on their side when their guys get hit.''

Girardi seemed just as upset with plate umpire Rob Drake. After Jeter was hit by rookie righthander Steve Geltz on an 0-and-2 pitch, Drake warned both teams. Girardi soon was ejected, then yelled at Geltz on his way back to the dugout. "I was upset at the warning, I don't understand it,'' Girardi said.

As for yelling at Geltz, Girardi said: "I'm tired of it, I'm tired of my guys getting hit and where they're getting hit. If you pitch inside, you pitch down in the zone, you don't pitch up. We're not pin cushions.''

Geltz said he was "totally caught off guard'' by Girardi's yelling and pointing at him.

"The guy has been around baseball forever, he should know that's not intentional,'' Geltz said. "It's an 0-and-2 count. That's Derek Jeter. I'm not trying to hit Jeter.''

Predictably, David Phelps' first pitch in the eighth came high and inside to Kevin Kiermaier, causing the immediate ejections of Phelps and bench coach Tony Pena, who took over for Girardi. The benches emptied, plenty of shouting and finger-pointing ensued, but no punches were thrown.

Further angering the Yankees was a Kirby Yates pitch that nearly hit John Ryan Murphy in the ninth with no ejection.

"None of their guys got hit and I got thrown out, so that's one frustrating thing,'' Phelps said, before perhaps putting things into perspective best, given how the season has gone.

"I think our team as a whole is frustrated by a whole lot of stuff right now,'' he said. "You guys have been watching the last two, three weeks what we've been doing. It's a frustrating game.''

Notes & quotes: Mark Teixeira missed the game because of swelling in his surgically repaired right wrist, which has been bothering him . . . Carlos Beltran returned to New York before the game because of a family matter.