The Red Sox have been on the other side of this one, and they can only hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.
In July 2004, Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez brawled in Fenway Park. The Red Sox rallied for a 10-9 victory on Bill Mueller’s walk-off, two-run homer against Mariano Rivera, and then rolled all the way to their first World Series title in 86 years three months later.
On Sunday night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox had a chance to drop the Yankees 9 1/2 games out of first place. Instead, they may have given New York life.
Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster drilled Rodriguez in the back in the second inning, A-Rod exacted revenge with a 446-foot home run four innings later, and now the Red Sox are left to wonder if they’ve woken a sleeping dog.
“It’s a tough one for us,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We have to try to figure out how to start playing better.”
In the coming days, particularly if the Sox struggle during their six-game interleague gauntlet through San Francisco and Los Angeles, Dempster’s actions will be debated. While there’s little doubt he hit Rodriguez intentionally — “100 percent,” tweeted former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler — what’s less clear is the wisdom of such a decision, coming early in a game against a potentially reeling division rival with the Sox trying to maintain a two-game AL East lead over the Rays.
“I was trying to pitch him inside,” Dempster said simply, later adding, “I’m more disappointed in the fact that I couldn’t hold a 6-3 lead. That’s the bigger story.”
Combined with Tampa Bay’s walk-off victory over the Blue Jays, the Sox saw their division lead drop to one game, and they trail the Rays by a game in the loss column. The Yankees aren’t yet a factor, but let the record show they’ve shaved four games off the deficit they faced 10 days ago.
“Every team we play is a factor,” Saltalamacchia said. “The next three or four weeks are going to be huge for us.”
Ross to be activated
C David Ross, on the disabled list since June 18 with a concussion, is expected to be activated Monday before the start of a three-game series in San Francisco. He caught back-to-back games for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday and Saturday. In six rehab games, two for Double-A Portland and four for Pawtucket, he went a combined 1-for-16 with a double, one RBI and two walks.
Buchholz throws 65 pitches
RHP Clay Buchholz, sidelined since June 9 because of inflammation in the bursa sac of his right shoulder, threw a simulated game Saturday for the first time in his rehabilitation. Buchholz threw 65 pitches over four simulated innings with teammates standing in the bullpen batter’s box. He is expected to throw another simulated game Wednesday in San Francisco. If he progresses as expected, the next step would be a minor league rehab game.
Ortiz to play two
DH David Ortiz is expected to start two of the Red Sox’s three games in San Francisco at first base. He has played just one game in the field this season, successfully handling all six of his chances May 30 at Philadelphia.
NOTEBOOK: Infielder Brandon Snyder (right elbow ulnar neuritis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8. … LHP Matt Thornton (strained right oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 5. He threw a bullpen session Aug. 18 and is scheduled for another Aug. 20. If all goes well, he could begin a rehab assignment in late August. … RHP Andrew Bailey (right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 13. He has opted for surgery. The procedure was performed July 24 and likely will sideline him for 12 months.