Ryan Dempster hits Alex Rodriguez with a fastball, umpire ejects Joe Girardi

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After the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, third baseman Alex Rodriguez led off the top of the second inning for the Yankees. Sox starter Ryan Dempster’s first pitch to Rodriguez was a fastball that went behind him towards his legs. Dempster’s next two pitches were waist-high inside, and on the fourth pitch Dempster plunked Rodriguez in the shoulder with a fastball. A very pleased Red Sox crowd became raucous, cheering in support of their pitcher. The benches cleared, but no punches were thrown.

Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora immediately issued warnings to both dugouts. An irate Joe Girardi stormed out of the Yankees dugout pleading for Dempster to be ejected. Instead, Girardi was tossed and the game resumed with Dempster allowed to continue his outing despite the rather obvious intent of his previous four pitches. Yankees starter CC Sabathia did not retaliate on behalf of Rodriguez.

On Friday, Red Sox starter John Lackey told the media that he thinks A-Rod shouldn’t be playing baseball. Girardi fired back, telling Lackey that if he doesn’t like A-Rod’s right to play while he appeals his 211-game suspension, he should help negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

Personal battles aside, this is an important game for both teams. At the moment, the 73-52 Red Sox have a tenuous 1.5-game lead over the second-place Rays in the AL East while the 63-59 Yankees are just 6.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the American League.

Update: Here’s a .gif of the first and fourth pitches of the at-bat, courtesy @Triples_Alley.

Kyle Schwarber has lost 17-20 pounds

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As is offseason tradition, the first of player-shape reports are trickling in. These usually use some variation of the phrase “best shape of [my/his] life.” This one, though, avoids that at least.

According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber has lost 17-20 pounds so far this offseason. Schwarber said that he’s “already big and strong,” so “might as well try to get more explosive, faster.”

Though Schwarber knocked out 30 home runs this past season, his numbers were otherwise pedestrian. He hit .211/.315/.467 with 59 RBI and 67 runs scored in 486 plate appearances.

There has been some speculation that the Cubs will try to trade Schwarber to an American League team where he can be a DH. He’s a subpar defender, so making him a full-time DH makes a lot of sense. So far, though, the only team that has been linked to Schwarber this offseason has been the Red Sox.