BOSTON — Since Ryan Dempster beaned Alex Rodriguez in front of a national audience Aug. 18 on Sunday Night Baseball, the Yankees have gone 12-5 and climbed back in the playoff hunt.
New York enters play today two games out of the second Wild Card spot.
The Yanks and Sox begin a four-game series at Yankee Stadium tonight. A productive weekend for the Yankees could put them back in the AL East race and set up what would be an extremely interesting Friday, Saturday and Sunday here next weekend at Fenway Park when the two rivals meet for the final time this regular season.
The A-Rod beaning not only revived the then-stagnant Red Sox/Yankees rivalry but also New York. The Yankees have come out of the coffin since — but having Rodriguez and Derek Jeter back from injuries and Alfonso Soriano added to the lineup certainly is the more likely reason for the turnaround.
The Red Sox crushed the Tigers 20-4 here at Fenway Park last night behind Will Middlebrooks’ second career grand slam and David Ortiz’s 2,000th career hit, a double, and two very long homers.
The Yankees, meanwhile, won 6-5 over the Chicago White Sox.
The Yanks have only a 19.1 percent chance of making the postseason but they have a pulse. They refuse to go away.
Both the Yanks and Sox are playing so well right now, it’s difficult to predict how the series will turn out.
Understandably, the football game (Pats/Bills, a more predictable game) will trump the baseball game Sunday in the ratings war, but the series finale between Jon Lester and Hiroki Kuroda should be a dandy and should mark the culmination of an eventful and possibly testy four days. It could perhaps involve a Red Sox batter being beaned in retaliation for what happened to A-Rod.
Watching every A-Rod at-bat this weekend should be fun in itself. After all, he was a ball of intense fire against Boston after being hit that Sunday.
A-Rod drilled a 446-foot homer to center field off Dempster and rounded the bases nearly as pumped as Joe Carter was when he smashed a walkoff World Series-winning three-run homer in 1993. Rodriguez even high-fived the camera man after crossing the plate.
Want similar intensity? Then watch today as Jake Peavy — who often yells at himself on the mound after surrendering hits — matches up against the talented Ivan Nova at 7:05 p.m.
It should be interesting to see how Peavy pitches against a solid Yankees lineup. He has a 3.18 ERA in six starts with Boston, but, except for maybe the Dodgers, he hasn’t faced any offensive juggernauts.
All in all, this series should be much more intense and meaningful than the previous meetings this summer.
Likewise, the rest of the season will be as intense for Boston. Nineteen of its final 21 games will be played against division opponents. But the way Boston has played so far this year, you have to believe they will finish first in the AL East.
“I think our guys have just responded to the challenges at hand,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Whether it’s following a loss or a couple of losses or a stretch of games where we’re maybe 4-6 out of 10, we find a way to get back on track and go on our own little run.”
Follow Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB
Sox 20, Tigers 4
Record night: Boston’s 8 homers tied a club record from 1977
Big Papi: David Ortiz homered twice and doubled and now his 2,000 career hits.
Grand night: Will Middlebrook hit a grand slam
Bring on the Yanks: Tonight at New York