BOSTON (WFAN/AP) — Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia insists Francisco Cervelli wasn’t hit on purpose — but it sure did look like he was.

The Yankees catcher homered, clapped his hands demonstratively while crossing the plate and got plunked in his very next at-bat.

It was not, Saltalamacchia said, intentional. The Red Sox were much more concerned with the 16 runners left on base than Cervelli’s antics in a 5-2 loss to the Yankees.

“We had no intent on hitting him. It just happened that way,” Saltalamacchia said. “I understand how it can look bad.”

Saltalamacchia stayed face-to-face with Cervelli as he threatened to charge Boston starter John Lackey in the seventh with the Yankees leading 4-2. Both benches cleared as tempers flared between the rivals.

“He was pumped for that ninth home run of his career, yeah,” Lackey said, unaware that it was just Cervelli’s third. ” I thought it was a little excessive, honestly, but that’s not a spot you handle something like that.”

“I’m not afraid to tell you if I’m trying to hit somebody,” Lackey added. “I would have told him to his face.”

Cervelli was one of four players hit in the game, but the frustration seemed more likely to come from the other dugout after a dominant start by New York’s CC Sabathia (18-7), who got his first win against Boston this season.

“I didn’t like it,” a fired-up Sabathia said of the Cervelli plunking.

Listen: CC after another heated game against the Red Sox

The Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but failed to score. Clutch hits did not come as the Yankees pulled within a half-game of Boston with two games left in the series.

The win was the Yankees’ third in 13 games against their AL East rival this season.

Lackey (12-10) allowed five runs — four earned — on seven hits and four walks, striking out three. Nick Swisher had three hits, and Francisco Cervelli hit a solo homer in the fifth.

Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his 35th save.

When Cervelli came up again in the seventh, Lackey hit him in the back, sparking a bench-clearing staredown. In the first inning, Curtis Granderson took one off the end of the bat — or the hand, depending on whom you believe — and then Sabathia plunked Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off the bottom half.

After getting hit, Cervelli moved toward the mound as the dugouts slowly emptied and home plate umpire Ed Rapuano tried to maintain order. There was nothing more than jawing back and forth, and in the end Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was ejected.

“It’s part of the game,” Cervelli said. “Yankees-Boston, everybody wants to win.”

“I’ve got so much adrenaline, but I don’t think I do anything bad,” he added. “I’m not trying to show anybody up. That’s Cervelli.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi watched the final out from the clubhouse. He was tossed after Rivera hit Jarrod Saltalamacchia with two outs in the ninth.

“It’s an emotional game. I don’t understand why (Cervelli) got hit, but it’s part of the game,” Girardi said. “Cervy plays with a lot of emotion. that’s who he is.”

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