No scraps for us to nibble on
There was serious anticipation at Fenway Park last night. Were the Yankees and Red Sox going to revert to old-school ways? Was there a possibility that a night at Fenway could turn into the Jerry Springer show or a free Rolling Stones concert with Hells Angels providing security?
This is what a lot of us were wondering when Josh Beckett threw the first pitch to Brett Gardner at (Big Gulp-sponsored?) 7:11 p.m.
An ultra-tidy three hours and 16 minutes later (quick one this time), we had our answer. No fisticuffs. No beanballs. No purpose to the pitches.
Just another 9-5 Red Sox domination of the Yankees on the strength of seven innings from Beckett (4-0 vs. New York this year) and two-run homers by David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jason Varitek. The Sox are 11-3 against the Yanks this season.
Personally, I was looking for a return to the dustups of the old days. I wanted something along the lines of Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk kicking and gouging as they rolled around the dirt behind homeplate. I wanted a return to the golden days when Bill Lee got his shoulder popped out of his socket, then referred to Billy Martin’s Pinstripe Gang as “Yankee brownshirts.’’
I wasn’t thinking we needed fans in the center-field bleachers hurling darts and cherry bombs at Curtis Granderson (Mickey Rivers dodged those when he played in Fenway), but I’d be OK with a reenactment of Pedro Martinez shucking Don Zimmer to the turf, or Varitek stuffing his catcher’s mitt into the face of Alex Rodriguez.
Face it, people: There hasn’t been a Yankee-Red Sox brawl since those golden days of 2004, which also happens to be the last time the rivals faced one another in the American League Championship Series.
We had a taste of the good old days earlier this summer when Yankee manager Joe Girardi got peeved at the sight of Ortiz flipping his bat after hitting yet another homer against the Yankees. Hard-working scribes did some deep research after the episode and determined that the Yankees had not hit Ortiz with a pitch over a span of almost 700 plate appearances. (Contrast that with Derek Jeter, who has been hit 24 times by Boston pitchers since he came into the big leagues.)
Armed with that information, CC Sabathia drilled Papi the next night and Ortiz blamed the media.
The chippy stuff resumed in earnest Tuesday at Fenway. John Lackey almost hit Granderson on the hands in the first inning. Sabathia retaliated by hitting Ellsbury on the elbow in the bottom of the first.
Then we had Francisco Cervelli’s excessive celebration when he homered off Lackey. Lackey drilled Cervelli the next time he came up, which emptied the benches and got Yankee coach Larry Rothschild tossed.
Girardi got the heave in the ninth when he argued that Jarrod Saltalamacchia actually swung at a pitch that hit Salty on the wrist. It was swell stuff all around.
All this came against a backdrop of the Sox-Yankees rivalry becoming diluted and the regular-season games meaningless. The New York Post certainly isn’t buying that. Yesterday’s tabloid cover was a full-page photo of Cervelli’s home run swing, next to a headline that declared “BASH IN BOSTON - Bombers batter Bosox.’’ The back cover featured Cervelli and Saltalamacchia nose-to-nose after Cervelli was plunked by Lackey’s purpose pitch.
The Yankee skipper allowed that his young catcher might have demonstrated a little too much exuberance.
“That’s gonna be brought up,’’ Girardi said last night. “The way athletes express themselves is different than from when I came up. Is it going to go back to the way it was? My guess is no.
“I don’t think anybody is trying to show anybody up, but sometimes it can be taken the wrong way when you are on the other side.’’
Girardi certainly managed with urgency Tuesday. He left Sabathia in for 128 pitches. No Yankee pitcher had thrown more since Randy Johnson threw 129 in 2006.
Ortiz was wildly expansive on the subject of Yankee-Red Sox hatred. It was almost as if he were channeling Reggie Jackson (who just happened to be on hand in uniform in the Yankee clubhouse).
“I am here to hit the ball and not fight,’’ said Papi. “We want to play the game the way it is supposed to be played. That’s what the fans want. We want to play a good game with lots of intensity.’’
Ortiz has been around this Yankee-Red Sox thing since the madness of 2003. His words count. It was appropriate that he was asked about comments by his catcher, young Saltalamacchia, who explained Cervelli’s demonstration with “the Latin guys, that’s just the way they play the game.’’
Salty immediately backed off the statement, then got a major assist from Ortiz, who laughed and said, “We are like that, for real!
“Sometimes we forget. We do things like we do in my country. I’m telling you the truth. Salty is a sweet dude.
“When I go deep, I’m enjoying myself. I’m not trying to show anybody up. A lot of people pay attention to little, stupid things.
“These are games everybody wants to see. I have to shut my phone down. Everybody wants tickets. But people want to see baseball, not wrestling. We got our asses whupped Tuesday night. Now we have to go out and whup their ass.
“I don’t want to go home and have my son ask, ‘Daddy, why do you fight?’ That embarrasses me. Hopefully people understand we are not here to fight. When you fight, you end up being suspended and that does not help the team. The three games I was suspended, I was going crazy watching the games.’’
With first place at stake, the Red Sox opened up a can of whoop-ass last night. All of Boston’s weaponry was on display, and there were no extracurricular activities. Mark Teixeira was the only hit batsman and he was struck by a Beckett curveball.
It was just baseball. And more Red Sox dominance.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com.