Playing nine innings while watching a guy with a 211-game suspension hanging over his head affect the pennant race ...
1. I'm sure ESPN loved the drama of it, and the fans at Fenway roared their approval as well. It was fascinating theater, and the return of tension to a Red Sox-Yankees series is welcome. But there's no way around the fundamental truth: Ryan Dempster's decision to make a statement and throw at A-Rod in the second inning of an important game in which he'd just been staked to a 2-0 lead was stupid, and even a bit selfish. He shouldn't have been thinking about being the PED Avenger; he should have been thinking about getting his fourth out of the ballgame.
2. Joe Girardi didn't seem to consider it when he nearly burst that giant vein on his forehead sticking up for a player you know he'd wish would get out of his clubhouse and his life, but the best thing that could have happened for the Yankees is Dempster remaining in the game after he hit A-Rod. He now has a 6.43 ERA in six second half starts. A follower on Twitter referred to him as Pat Rapp, and that's both shudder-inducing and perfect.
3. By the way, I believe Dempster's claim that hitting A-Rod was an accident about as much as I'd believe a claim from A-Rod that he's never taken anything riskier than Pirate Booty.
4. The parallels to the 2004 Tek/A-Rod game were easy to make after the Yankees held on, particularly since their distance behind the Red Sox entering last night was by the same 8.5-game margin that the Yankees led the Sox on July 24, 2004. But it's worth remembering that the Sox didn't actually catch the Yankees during the regular season, finishing three back in the AL East. Also worth noting: The Yankees may rally, but it would be foolish to confuse it with rallying around A-Rod. The guy sits in a cone of silence in the dugout. His teammates like him about as much as Anthony Bosch does.
5. The most annoying Yankee is not A-Rod. It's Brett Gardner, who's like a funhouse-mirror version of Chad Curtis. Of course, a fan-base that has the privilege of watching Dustin Pedroia play every day probably shouldn't be yelping about another team's pesky little guy.
6. I had no problem with John Farrell going with Drake Britton against Gardner with the bases loaded in the sixth. Craig Breslow is more of a pure setup reliever in the current structure of the bullpen, and it was a good test to see if Britton can thrive in that situation. He didn't, with Gardner hitting the pivotal three-run triple. (Is Jacoby Ellsbury in the television picture yet?) But the lousy result doesn't mean the process was wrong.
7. Sunday's game was the best Will Middlebrooks has looked at the plate since his three-homer game in Toronto. There was no wasted motion in his swing whatsoever in his opposite-field homer to right field in the fourth inning off CC Sabathia, and he pulled a double to left off David Robertson in the eighth. Robertson is actually better against lefties (.475 OPS vs. .673 for righthanded batters), but still, it's an encouraging sign.
8. So I hear this Xander Bogaerts has been called up to the Red Sox. Hmmm. Interesting name. Appears to have had some minor league success. I will investigate further and get back to you with my findings. (Alternate comment: WHAT TOOK SO LONG?)
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Sox could have used Bill Mueller last night. Manny, too.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.