06/02/07 1:30 AM ET
Flaring tempers reignite rivalry
Bad blood simmers between Yanks-Sox in series opener
Until the epilogue flashed across the late-night sky, this had been a relative snoozefest enlivened only by the creative Boston fans' welcome of Alex Rodriguez.Whenever a Yankees infielder settled under a pop up, you can be sure that 36,785 were calling for the ball from the stands. Then, slowly, the dramatic muses began to peek their heads through the blades of grass. The force of the hit batsmen gradually escalated, as though orchestrated toward the Youkilis crescendo. First, Mike Lowell was hit by Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang's 0-1 pitch in the third. Next, Tim Wakefield bounced a 1-1 pitch off Josh Phelps.
Later in the fourth, Rodriguez was brushed by Kyle Snyder's 1-2 pitch in the fourth.And in the top of the ninth, Javier Lopez planted an 0-2 pitch in the back of Robinson Cano -- who had begun the Yankees' assault long before with a two-run homer in the second. In the postgame clubhouse, Cano closely examined footage of Lopez's pitch and walked away becalmed. "I was checking where the catcher set up," Cano said. "He signaled for the pitch to be out, so it just got away. Not on purpose." So the Yankees were not thinking retaliation -- a message Posada said he explicitly delivered to Proctor as he entered the game to start the ninth. Posada visited the mound and told Proctor, "Nobody needs to get hit. Pitch your game. Go about your business." "So I know there was no intention behind any of these pitches," Posada told reporters. "The ump ... he just looks at what's going on, and goes on that." Proctor argued his ejection. Which, of course, is a nonreversible verdict. "I can understand why Youkilis was mad at me," Proctor said. "Any time you get a ball thrown at your head ... "But if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it on the first pitch. I'm not going to do it 2-2 and waste four pitches. That's stupid." "It's gonna happen every once in a while," said Youkilis, for whom that rate has accelerated to twice in a while. He was dinged nine times in 680 plate appearances in 2006, but already six times in about one-third of that this season. "I get hit all time," he said, "but you're never happy if the ball's coming at your head." Either amused or just piqued by those questioning his reaction, Youkilis wondered, "Have you guys ever had a ball thrown at your head?" So, despite the wide separation between the teams, little appeared to have changed. Fenway Park was charming as ever, and still sold out. The Citgo sign glowed as bright as ever. An early-evening cloudburst after a stiflingly-hot afternoon felt as good as ever. And the Yankees and the Red Sox again found a way to escalate their relationship above the field, and outside the lines. They can't always keep the promise of racing down to the wire year after year. But they never fail to keep your attention.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.