BOSTON — Ryan Dempster gave baseball fans everywhere some fantastic water cooler material for Monday.
Dempster drilled Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in the second inning of Sunday’s game after throwing three straight pitches inside, including one behind the controversial slugger. The sequence caused quite the stir at Fenway Park, and it’s the perfect starting point for all Monday morning small talk. But once we move past the incident, which was obviously entertaining, we’ll see that it overshadowed a more important story in the Red Sox’ 9-6 loss to the Yankees.
The real — albeit boring by comparison — story is that Dempster simply cannot beat the boys in pinstripes, and he isn’t exactly in the best place as we get deeper into August.
Dempster entered Sunday’s rubber match winless in his career against the Yankees, and he exited the contest the same way. Dempster surrendered seven earned runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings of work while suffering the loss, running his career record against New York to 0-6 in eight starts. That alone is concerning given that the Red Sox have seven more games against the Yankees, but it’s even more discouraging because it compounds some issues that are already plaguing Dempster.
The Red Sox won six straight games that Dempster started before Sunday’s defeat — although he didn’t factor in any of the decisions — and the right-hander was excellent in his last outing against the Blue Jays. Overall, the month of August hasn’t been too kind to the veteran, though, and he’ll need to pitch better down the stretch.
Dempster now has a 7.40 ERA in four August starts. He has given up seven runs in two of those outings, including Sunday, and his season ERA has gone from 4.24 to 4.77 in that span. Dempster has had the benefit of substantial run support, but even a good offensive showing couldn’t bail him out Sunday.
Dempster ran into trouble in the second inning after plunking Rodriguez, which Dempster said wasn’t intentional despite the benches clearing, warnings being issued and Joe Girardi getting ejected. Curtis Granderson doubled down the first base line, and Eduardo Nunez put New York on the scoreboard with a single into center field. Lyle Overbay then tied the score at two apiece with a sacrifice fly.
“I made a good pitch to Granderson and it just got by [Daniel] Nava,” Dempster said. “If that ball’s a foot to the right, we’re talking a double play ball and a different situation. Still, after the Nunez hit, I was able to calm the inning down and then I pitched well until the sixth inning.”
Things really unraveled in the sixth, which Rodriguez led off with a towering home run to straightaway center field. Nunez and Overbay both singled before Dempster issued a four-pitch walk to the Yankees’ No. 9 hitter, Chris Stewart. That ended his night.
“I just didn’t make enough quality pitches in the sixth inning and that’s really the story of the game,” Dempster said. “When you sit there and you let them creep back in it, especially the bottom of the lineup, that’s the time when you’ve got to close the door and then hand the ball over to somebody and [you can’t] expect them to get out of a bases loaded [situation]. That’s a lot to ask. I just didn’t do my job tonight, and that’s the most frustrating part and that’s probably the part I’m most angry about.”
Drake Britton relieved Dempster with the bags packed, and Brett Gardner drove the rookie’s second pitch into the right-center field gap for a bases-clearing triple that gave the Yankees a 7-6 lead. New York never looked back.
Dempster and the Red Sox will have to quickly put Sunday’s game in the rearview mirror. They start up a three-game series against the Giants on Monday, and then it’s on to Los Angeles for three games against the Dodgers, who are the hottest team in baseball. If the starting pitching doesn’t become more consistent, it’s going to be difficult for the Red Sox to break out of their brief swoon, which has seen them lose seven of their last 10 games.
The lasting image of Sunday’s game is Dempster hitting Rodriguez near the shoulder with a pitch. The more important image is the Yankees celebrating a series victory on the Fenway Park infield after dealing Dempster another defeat.