It is said that one should let sleeping dogs lie. Others say you shouldn’t poke a bear.
Apparently Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster disregarded this advice when he hit New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in the second inning of the rubber game of their three game series on Sunday night.
When A-Rod led off the inning, the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead. Dempster’s first pitch went behind A-Rod causing him to lose his balance and causing much delight with the Fenway faithful. After two more inside pitches, Dempster finally plunked A-Rod.
Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora emphatically issued warnings to both the Red Sox and Yankee benches. However, O’Nora did not eject Dempster. This enraged Yankees manager Joe Girardi who came charging out of the dugout to express his displeasure. O’Nora ejected an irate Girardi.
Once order was restored, Curtis Granderson drove home A-Rod with a double. After an Eduardo Nunez single, Granderson would score on a sacrifice fly by Lyle Overbay to tie the game at 2-2. In the third, A-Rod gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead on an RBI ground out.
Now the only two explanations I have for Dempster plunking A-Rod are a) he is angry that A-Rod is appealing his 211-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal and b) he wants to endear himself to Red Sox Nation.
Dempster’s anger isn’t implausible. Indeed, Dempster’s teammate John Lackey expressed dismay that A-Rod was being permitted to play. “How is he still playing?” asked Lackey, “He obviously did something and he’s playing. I’m not sure that’s right.”
Yet Lackey didn’t see fit to drill A-Rod and ended up beating the Yankees on Saturday afternoon 6-1. A-Rod went 0 for 3. If Dempster wanted to endear himself to Red Sox Nation, he should have got him out instead of drilling him.
The Red Sox tied the game in the bottom of the third on a RBI groundout by David Ortiz and took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Stephen Drew and a solo homerun by Will Middlebrooks. In the bottom of the fifth, Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia walked Daniel Nava with the bases loaded to give the Red Sox a 6-3 lead. The aftershocks of A-Rod taking his base appeared to be over.
But A-Rod had other plans. Leading off in the top of the sixth, A-Rod got the last laugh against Dempster by hitting a fastball into the centerfield bleachers. It was the 649th homerun of his MLB career and judging by the way he clapped his hands as he rounded first base probably his most satisfying.
The Fenway faithful chanted, “STEROIDS, STEROIDS” in unison. But this only motivated the Yankees who opted to get even rather than get mad. After a groundout by Granderson, Dempster gave up singles to Nunez and Overbay and then walked Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. Red Sox manager John Farrell had seen enough of Dempster (I had enough of Dempster in the second inning) and brought in rookie reliever Drake Britton. He promptly surrendered a bases clearing triple to Brett Gardner to give the Yankees a 7-6 lead. Gardner might have got the big hit, but it was A-Rod who spurred on the Yankees.
A-Rod would collect two more hits, both seeing-eye singles which ate up Drew and Dustin Pedroia, respectively (although I’m sure Petey would say he should have been charged with an error).
The Yankees added runs in the seventh and in the ninth. Mariano Rivera got the final three outs. Sabathia got the win despite surrendering six runs. In nearly four hours and fifteen minutes, the Yankees beat the Red Sox 9-6. The Bronx Bombers take two out of three in Boston this weekend.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman might no longer feel comfortable talking with A-Rod. His teammates might very well feel the same way. But the Yankees are a better team with A-Rod than without him. As of this writing, the Yankees are seven and a half games back in the AL East and five and a half games back in the AL Wild Card standings. There are 40 games left in the 2013 season. If the Yankees somehow reach the post-season this game will have been the turning point in the Yankees season. If the Yankees do make it to October, A-Rod will be right in the middle of it. Suspension or no suspension, A-Rod can still play this game.