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.

Video: Zack Greinke homers off of Clayton Kershaw

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Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke continued to swing a good stick, belting his third homer of the season on Monday night against the Dodgers. With the game tied 3-3 in the second inning, Greinke lined a 1-1 Clayton Kershaw fastball over the fence in left field for a solo homer.

Greinke is the third pitcher to homer off of Kershaw, joining Madison Bumgarner and Tyson Ross. He’s No. 4 if you count Brandon Woodruff‘s home run in Game 1 of the NLCS last year. Greinke now has three homers on the season, setting a career-high. He’s batting .314/.351/.686 with six RBI, seven runs scored, and a stolen base along with the trio of dingers. Absurd numbers from a pitcher.