BOSTON (AP) — Alex Rodriguez responded to being hit by a pitch the best way he knows how — with a home run.
And his teammates followed his lead.
“It was awesome. I was pretty excited,” Rodriguez said of the homer that started the Yankees’ go-ahead rally. “It was the ultimate payback.”
Rodriguez was hit by a fastball his first time up and then hit the 649th homer of his career to start a four-run sixth inning that carried New York to a 9-6 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected after storming out of the dugout to holler at plate umpire Brian O’Nora, who warned both benches immediately after Rodriguez was plunked by Ryan Dempster’s 3-0 pitch leading off the second inning. It struck his left elbow pad and ricocheted off his back.
Girardi felt the incident sparked the Yankees.
“I’m sure it did,” he said. “They rallied and responded.”
Rodriguez, who went 3 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, was suspended recently for 211 games by Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis drug case. He appealed the penalty and can play until there is a final decision.
“Whether you like me or hate me, what’s wrong is wrong,” he said of being hit. “That was unprofessional and silly.”
Under the collective bargaining agreement, Rodriguez has the right to appeal.
“Whether I agree with everything that’s going on, you do not throw at people and you don’t take the law into your own hands,” Girardi said. “You can’t just start taking potshots because you disagree with the way the system is set up.”
Girardi and Rodriguez said Dempster threw at Rodriguez intentionally. And Girardi said Dempster should have been ejected and should be suspended.
Rodriguez declined to comment on any punishment for the pitcher.
“I’m the wrong guy to be asking about suspensions,” he said with a smile.
Players streamed from the dugouts and benches, but no skirmishes developed in the latest testy game between the longtime rivals.
The dustup seemed to spark the Yankees, who were trailing 2-0 at the time. Mariano Rivera earned his first save since blowing three chances in a row for the first time in his career.
“I’m sure any hitter that hits a home run the next time up after you’ve been hit, it feels good,” said Dempster, who denied throwing at Rodriguez. “It’s just reality. It was unfortunate because it started the inning off with a run.”
Boston’s lead in the AL East was cut to one game over Tampa Bay. The game took 4 hours, 12 minutes.
One Yankee drew loud cheers from the Fenway Park crowd. Rivera received a standing ovation as he ran in from the bullpen for the ninth. In his first appearance since last Sunday, he got his 36th save in 41 opportunities.
With two runners on, Rivera retired Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a fly ball for the final out.
CC Sabathia (11-10) got the win and the Yankees took two of three from the first-place Red Sox.
Booed every time he came to bat — and even when he was on deck in the first — Rodriguez drew more jeers after he led off the sixth with a homer off Dempster (6-9) to cut the lead to 6-4. Brett Gardner soon followed with a three-run triple off Drake Britton.
As Rodriguez’s second homer of the year landed in the center field bleachers, he clapped his hands and let out a shout at first base. Then he clapped again and pointed both hands skyward as he crossed home plate.
He continued to the dugout where he was congratulated by teammates.
The rally continued when the Yankees loaded the bases with one out on singles by Eduardo Nunez and Lyle Overbay and a walk to Chris Stewart before Gardner tripled.
Rodriguez was one of four Yankees hit by pitches, but his was the only one that appeared to be intentional.
On Rodriguez’s first at bat, Dempster “pitched much like Ryan has done (in) many starts,” said Boston manager John Farrell, who denied that Dempster was throwing at Rodriguez. “He established his fastball. There are hitters in the lineup and he’s got to establish it in. We saw later on when he doesn’t establish his fastball in. Rodriguez gets his arms extended and he drives the ball out to center field.”
Dempster’s first pitch went behind Rodriguez’s knees as fans chanted “You’re a cheater!” The next two pitches were inside before the fourth pitch struck Rodriguez. He walked slowly to first base, accompanied by a trainer and staring at Dempster but not making a move toward the mound.
In 12 games since his season debut after recovering from hip and quadriceps problems, Rodriguez is batting .319 with two homers and six RBIs.
Boston had taken a 2-0 lead in the first on a sacrifice fly by Jonny Gomes and an RBI single by Saltalamacchia. New York tied it in the second when Rodriguez was hit, took third on a double by Curtis Granderson and scored on a single by Nunez. Overbay followed with a sacrifice fly.
Rodriguez’s run-scoring groundout gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the third before the Red Sox tied it in the bottom of the inning on an RBI groundout by David Ortiz.
The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead in the fourth on Stephen Drew’s sacrifice fly and Will Middlebrooks’ 10th homer. A bases-loaded walk to Daniel Nava boosted the lead to 6-3 in the fifth.
After the four-run sixth, the Yankees added RBI singles by Mark Reynolds in the seventh and Stewart in the ninth.
“Today kind of brought us together,” Rodriguez said. “Joe’s reaction was amazing. Every single one of my teammates came up to me and said hit a (homer).”
NOTES: New York’s Alfonso Soriano went 0 for 6 after batting .682 with five homers and 18 RBIs in his previous five games. … Yankees SS Nunez left the game in the sixth with a tight right hamstring. … Boston 1B Mike Napoli missed his second straight game with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. … Yankees SS Derek Jeter (strained right calf) increased his movement in fielding drills on Sunday, including some spin moves on grounders up the middle, during his third day of workouts at the team’s complex in Tampa, Fla. Jeter took batting practice, but isn’t running the bases. Girardi said Jeter won’t be ready to return for Tuesday’s doubleheader against Toronto. … Dempster is 0-6 with a 7.57 ERA against the Yankees in his career.