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.

Report: Athletics to acquire Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Athletics and Cardinals have agreed on a trade involving outfielder Stephen Piscotty. The Cardinals will receive two as yet unknown minor leaguers in return.

Piscotty, 26, hit .235/.342/.367 with nine home runs and 39 RBI in 401 plate appearances for the Cardinals this past season. He dealt with injuries and with his mother’s ALS diagnosis, so it was a rough year, but very excusably so. The Cardinals had signed him to a six-year, $33.5 million contract extension in March. He’s under contract through 2022 at a total of $29.5 million and has a club option for 2023 worth $15 million with a $1 million buyout.

The Cardinals had an outfield spot open up after agreeing to acquire Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins on Wednesday so the Piscotty trade doesn’t come as a surprise.