BOSTON — Ryan Dempster is sticking to his guns — even if few people believe him.
Dempster said after Sunday’s loss to the Yankees that he didn’t hit Alex Rodriguez intentionally, even though it appeared to most that the right-hander plunked A-Rod on purpose in the second inning. Dempster said that he was simply trying to pitch inside, and that there are no issues between him and Rodriguez.
Dempster pitched inside — way, way inside — against Rodriguez from the moment the controversial slugger stepped into the batter’s box Sunday. His first pitch traveled behind Rodriguez, and he followed with two more pitches inside before hitting A-Rod with his fourth pitch.
Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora issued warnings to both sides after Rodriguez got drilled, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi stormed out of the dugout as both benches emptied. No punches were thrown, no words were exchanged and order was quickly restored, but Girardi was extremely upset at the fact that Dempster wasn’t ejected. The Yankees skipper was sent to the showers after a heated argument with O’Nora.
While Dempster maintained that his pitches got away from him, he said that he wasn’t all that shocked when O’Nora decided to issue the warnings. After all, Rodriguez has been a lightning rod for criticism lately, and there’s been plenty of chatter about pitchers potentially going after A-Rod, who is in the midst of appealing a 211-game suspension.
“When the first one got away, I thought after that maybe there would be [warnings],” Dempster said. “It escalated pretty early. But then Brian did an unbelievable job throughout the rest of the game. There were some more guys hit, guys pitched inside on both teams, and he did a really good job of controlling the game out there.”
Girardi said after the game that he thinks Dempster should be suspended for at least one start. He said “everyone knows” Dempster hit Rodriguez intentionally and that it should cost the Red Sox hurler. Dempster, meanwhile, focused more on what he didn’t do Sunday than what many believe he did do.
“I’m more disappointed in the fact that I couldn’t hold a 6-3 lead,” Dempster said following Boston’s 9-6 loss. “That’s the bigger story. We had 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. When 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.”
Dempster suffered the loss after being charged with seven earned runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings of work. Rodriguez even exacted some revenge in the sixth inning by kicking off a four-run frame with a solo homer to straightaway center field.
“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 the inning off with a run, and you’re trying to get the leadoff guy out there.”
A number of players, analysts and fans have been outspoken about the idea of Rodriguez playing and potentially impacting a playoff race while a historic suspension hangs over his head. The fears became a reality Sunday, when Rodriguez led the charge for New York after an emotional beginning sent Dempster in the wrong direction.