BOSTON -- He might be the most popular man in the baseball world today.
Ryan Dempster will be remembered as the Boston Red Sox pitcher that drilled Alex Rodriguez with a pitch when most believe the Yankees third baseman shouldn’t even be playing after he received a 211-game suspension for his part in the Biogenesis scandal.
Dempster threw three consecutive balls inside to Rodriguez in the second inning, then delivered his fourth offering -- right to A-Rod's ribs.
After New York’s 9-6 win over Boston in the series finale Sunday night at Fenway Park, Dempster said he was not trying to hit A-Rod.
“No, I was just trying to pitch him inside,” he said.
Red Sox manager John Farrell backed him up, saying it was evident his starter was trying to establish his fastball inside, not only to Rodriguez, but other batters, too.
“Regarding the first at-bat to Rodriguez, much like Ryan has done many, many starts, that he establishes his fastball, and there are hitters in a given lineup he’s got to establish it in,” Farrell said.
Farrell was asked if he thought Dempster hit Rodriguez on purpose.
“I don’t know that he hit him on purpose. I don’t think he did,” the manager said.
The Red Sox held a 2-0 lead after the first inning. When Rodriguez stepped into the box in the top of the second, Dempster’s first offering was thrown behind the batter, which the pitcher later said was supposed to be a sinker down and in.
“I’ve watched a lot of video on him and a lot of guys were having success throwing the ball down there,” Dempster said.
When the fourth pitch hit Rodriguez, the benches and bullpens emptied and Yankees manager Joe Girardi was outraged, wanting Dempster ejected from the game. It appeared he was yelling at Dempster, but the Red Sox starter said he didn’t hear anything coming from the New York skipper.
“Me and Joe? No. Nothing. I was just trying to get focused and get back to trying to make pitches,” Dempster said. “I didn’t really try to get too caught up in it. Obviously, he was upset but I just tried to get back and try to make my pitches.”
Home-plate umpire Brian O’Nora quickly issued warnings to both benches, which did not surprise Dempster.
“When the first one got away, I thought after that maybe there would be,” he said. “It escalated but Brian did an unbelievable job throughout the rest of the game. There were some more guys hit [a total of four], more guys pitched inside both teams, and he did a really good job of controlling the game back there.”
Farrell said he understood why Girardi was so upset.
“Everyone is going to have their own view of the situation,” Farrell said.
“Do I understand why Joe was upset? If it’s one of my players, yeah, I’m going to interpret a certain way on our side as well.”
Dempster, Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox stood by the notion it was not intentional. And the debate will be whether or not it was a smart move by the Red Sox to hit Rodriguez in that situation, especially with Boston’s lead in the AL East now at one game over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’m just more disappointed in the fact that I couldn’t hold a 6-3 lead,” he said. “That’s the bigger story. We’ve got a game right there in hand to win and I didn’t do a very good job of making pitches in the sixth inning. I’ve got to execute better. The guys go out there and score a bunch of runs off a guy like [CC] Sabathia, you’ve got to go out there and make your pitches and hold your lead and I didn’t do that.”
The drama escalated when Rodriguez crushed a solo home run to deep center field off Dempster to start the sixth inning. A-Rod showed his excitement as he rounded first base with a clap of his hands and a fist pump. When he crossed home plate, he stood there and pointed skyward as the boos increased.
“I knew he got it when he hit it,” Dempster said. “I’m sure any time any hitter gets hit by a pitch, when you hit a home run the next time up it always probably feels good. That’s just reality. It was unfortunate because it started off the inning with a run when you’re trying to get the leadoff guy out.”
Of course, many players feel that Rodriguez shouldn't even be playing. Major League Baseball suspended him for 211 games, but he’s still able to play because he’s appealing the decision. That has made many opponents upset because Rodriguez’s presence on the field can affect the final regular-season standings.
Dempster is not the first pitcher to hit A-Rod since he returned to action on Aug. 5. White Sox pitcher Chris Sale hit Rodriguez on Aug. 6 at Chicago.
Truth be told, many pitchers are upset that players are using performance-enhancing drugs. It seems like Dempster, a veteran who has plugged his way through a 16-year career, would be the perfect pitcher to send a message.
It would have been a classic moment if Dempster admitted guilt. Of course, that would have paved the way for disciplinary action by MLB.
Either way, Red Sox fans will cheer the veteran hurler for life for what occurred Sunday night.
“I just wish I would’ve went out there for the fans and put up a better performance on the mound,” he said.
Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had the best view in the house when the ball hit Rodriguez.
“Well, you saw what happens when we go away,” Saltalamacchia said, referring to Rodriguez’s home run in the sixth inning. “He’s a good hitter. We hadn’t really thrown in on him all series. Dempster’s a guy that can’t overpower, so he’s got to get crafty with his pitches and goes off of location, so to get him from diving, you have to kind of go in on the guy. We got to a 2-0 count and I wanted to go, I think he wanted to go in again to get a strike, then that way we can go away, get him thinking in, in, in, in, in. We couldn’t get there, so we got to 3-0 and I think he wanted to go in again. At times you go in for a strike in non-fastball counts just so you can get him out away. It just didn’t work.”
That’s a lengthy explanation, but Saltalamacchia chalked up the episode to the storied rivalry.
“This battle between two teams is always going to be intense, regardless of the situation, or what’s going on,” Saltalamacchia said. “Unfortunately, it happened but we still had a baseball game to play.”
Dempster took the blame for the Red Sox loss.
“I just didn’t do my job tonight and that’s the most frustrating part,” Dempster said. “That’s the part I’m most angry about.”
Many in the baseball world probably feel like he did do his job. At least the 37,917 in attendance did and that’s why he received a standing ovation when he walked off the field despite a poor outing.