Yankees 9, Red Sox 6: Alex Rodriguez the difference

Jared Wickerham

Ryan Dempster wrote a check he couldn't cash. The Red Sox lost.

It's hard to imagine a more hateful combination of words in the English language, but the truth is the truth: the Red Sox lost to the Yankees tonight thanks to Alex Rodriguez.

We'll pause in case that inspired a violent reaction.

After the first, things seemed so positive. Ryan Dempster had struck out two batters in a scoreless frame of work, and the Red Sox had gotten to CC Sabathia right off the bat, putting their first two men on and bringing them around to score for a 2-0 lead.

And then Ryan Dempster plunked Alex Rodriguez. Probably not the best of ideas considering that Rodriguez was leading off the second inning. A thought that is only reinforced by the fact that the Yankees brought not only Rodriguez, but also Curtis Granderson around to score to tie the game. Especially bad when you consider that Ryan Dempster is not a guy who has excelled at keeping runs off the board in general of late.

He did no better in this game. A pair of singles to start off the third would lead to a third Yankees run in the very next inning. To that point, though, the Red Sox were up to the task, equalizing by capitalizing on a Shane Victorino leadoff double in the third. A combination of small ball--a sacrifice bunt and fly to score Daniel Nava--and not-so-small ball--a Will Middlebrooks home run into the bullpens--would make it 5-3 Red Sox after four. When Boston put together a sixth run in the fifth, it seemed like everything was running nice and smooth. The Red Sox were back to being the Red Sox.

And then Alex Rodriguez put a big swing on a bad fastball, and the tenor of the game changed. It was a solo shot, worth just one run either way, but the Yankees rallied behind it. Dempster allowed one-out singles to Eduardo Nunez and Lyle Overbay, then walked Chris Stewart, leaving a bases loaded situation for Drake Britton.

Unfortunately, while he started his MLB career well, Britton had quickly made the transition from unhittable, to untenable. Having already given up five earned runs in his last three appearances (including three to the Yankees), Britton quickly allowed a triple--nearly a homer--to Brett Gardner, giving the Yankees all three of the runs they needed to not just tie the game, but take the lead.

And that was when the Red Sox offense stopped. CC Sabathia was not long for the game, leaving after allowing one of two batters to reach to start the bottom of the sixth, but from there the New York bullpen took over, and chances were few. Mariano Rivera, fresh off a handful of blown saves, survived the ninth despite a pair of baserunners, and that was that.

What makes it more depressing is the effect that plunking had on the game. Ryan Dempster brought Red Sox - Yankees back to life, arguably for the first time in years, and then he didn't have the common decency to finish the job. Maybe it didn't cost the Red Sox the game. Maybe in some nebulous way it did. Whatever the effect, though, Ryan Dempster raised the stakes. He took this game and elevated it to something more than a regular season game against a fourth place team, Yankees or not, and made it matter.

And then he lost it.

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