Yankees fans itching for payback against the Red Sox may need patience.
The Red Sox arrive at Yankee Stadium Thursday night to begin a four-game series, and no one in pinstripes has forgotten Boston starter Ryan Dempster trying to make Alex Rodriguez a piñata when the rivals last met on Aug. 18.
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Dempster threw inside at Rodriguez three straight times before plunking the Yankees slugger in the left elbow with a fastball. The Yankees were incensed at the time, but with umpires immediately issuing a warning to both benches they were unable to retaliate.
Rodriguez and the Yankees got some revenge, as he hit a home run off Dempster in the sixth inning of a 9-6 win. But the victory didn't erase the sting from seeing one of their players hit without a chance to get even.
"It was a mess," outfielder Vernon Wells said before Wednesday night's game against the White Sox. "It was something that definitely could have been avoided, but it happened. That's part of this game. You'll see some things in this game that you don't necessarily agree with."
Had this feud occurred earlier in the season, it's a safe bet that one of Yankees starter Ivan Nova's offerings would find a Red Sox batter's rib cage Thursday night. But with games dwindling and both teams in the midst of a playoff push, the Yankees can't make revenge a priority.
"You have to pick and choose your battles," Wells said. "I don't think we'll see these two teams doing something stupid to warrant someone getting suspended or something like that. We need to go out and win. That's the ultimate retaliation."
Joe Girardi exploded with anger after Rodriguez got plunked and Dempster wasn't ejected. Dempster was subsequently suspended for five games by MLB and will miss this weekend's series because he pitched Wednesday night.
Girardi, who was thrown out of the Aug. 18 game for his outburst, said the stakes are too high for Nova to risk an early ejection. The pitcher received the message, saying, "I'm just going to focus on winning the game."
Girardi doesn't expect any pre-emptive warnings from MLB, but the umpiring crew is obviously aware of what took place 21/2 weeks ago. The Yankees hope the umpires aren't overly sensitive to any inside pitches to Red Sox batters.
"I don't think we can really worry about [retaliation] too much," first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "Because we look back on that Sunday night baseball game and I think Ryan put himself in a position to lose that ballgame. We can't afford that. But I'm not saying it's not in the back of our heads."
Baseball players and managers possess notoriously long memories, so Yankees fans can rest assured that there will be revenge. It just might not come this weekend.
"This game has a way of evening things out,"Wells said. "We've been around this game a while and there's situations, there's ways to do it, and ways to go about it the right way. We'll see what happens."