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.

Clay Buchholz makes first major league start in over a year

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The Diamondbacks selected the contract of pitcher Clay Buchholz from Triple-A Reno ahead of Sunday’s game against the Mets. It marked Buchholz’s first major league start since April 11 last season (also against the Mets) when he was a member of the Phillies. Shortly after that start, he was diagnosed with a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass and he ended up not being able to pitch the rest of the season.

Buchholz signed a minor league deal with the Royals but he opted out of his contract at the beginning of this month. The Diamondbacks signed him to a minor league deal a few days later, needing depth with a depleted starting rotation. Buchholz made two starts for Reno before getting the call Sunday.

Buchholz, 33, pitched well on Sunday against the Mets, lasting five innings and limiting the opposition to a run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts. His only blemish was allowing a solo home run to Amed Rosario leading off the sixth. He was immediately relieved by T.J. McFarland afterwards.

It is not yet clear if Buchholz will get another turn through the D-Backs’ rotation.