Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) watches his...

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) watches his two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. (June 7, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

This meaningful homestand is centered on the greatness of Derek Jeter, and to be fair, the Yankees' captain did his part last night, delivering a pair of singles (the first one a gift from official scorer Howie Karpin) as the starting designated hitter to increase his career hits total to 2,988.

But all you have to know about this rivalry opener is that a nice chunk of Yankee Stadium fans, discouraged by their team's performance, didn't even stick around to see Jeter's ninth-inning at-bat.

And also that, following the Yankees' 6-4 loss to Boston, Joe Girardi seemed most passionate about a colorful display by Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. When Big Papi homered to rightfield off Yankees rookie Hector Noesi in the top of the fifth inning, boosting the Red Sox's lead to 6-1, Ortiz gracefully flipped his bat across home plate, using his right hand, then began a slow trot around the bases.

"I didn't really care for it," the Yankees' manager said. "I don't know if he was upset that he missed some pitches earlier.

"You know, I have a young kid on the mound. I didn't know if he was upset that he [Noesi] came in hard on him. But of course when it happens to you, you're going to defend your guy."

The timing of Ortiz's theatrics came into question because Noesi, on an 0-and-1 pitch, had buzzed Ortiz inside. It was fair to wonder whether that offering was retaliatory for Mark Teixeira having to leave the game in the first inning when Boston starting pitcher Jon Lester drilled Teixeira in the right knee or that Lester also hit Russell Martin later in the inning.

Ortiz said he didn't consider Noesi's inside pitch to have bad intentions. Nor did Ortiz apologize for the bat flip, which came after the very next pitch.

"That's Papi style," he said. "You've seen that before."

Asked specifically about Girardi's criticism, Ortiz said: "It's not my first time. It's not going to be my last one. I'm a home run hitter. That's all I can tell you. It's not like I do it all the time. It's part of my thing."

Pressed on what emotion he felt that prompted him to flip his bat, Ortiz said, smiling: "I just went deep. You want more emotion than that?"

Girardi ultimately didn't seem that agitated by Ortiz. The Yankees' manager said: "David's always played the game hard. I've never had a problem with David Ortiz. This guy's been a clutch player for a long time. My reaction's probably more protecting our young kid, and that's what I'm going to do."

Yankees catcher Martin said that Ortiz "kind of rubbed it in our face" with the bat flip and the slow trot.

"He certainly took his time coming out of the box," Martin said. "It was up to us to give it back to him but we didn't get the opportunity."

Martin appeared to mean "Win the game," as opposed to getting physical retribution against Ortiz.

On the mound Wednesday night, the Yankees will have A.J. Burnett, who isn't afraid to send a message to opponents. But really, with Tim Wakefield on the mound for Boston, the Yankees' best measure of revenge can come on the scoreboard, so they can extend their slim (one game in the loss column) American League East lead over the Red Sox.

And if Jeter contributes to a rebound victory, then the Yankees can turn this homestand back into the festival they want it to be.