BOSTON (AP) - Ryan Dempster denied hitting Alex Rodriguez. There was no doubt, though, that the New York Yankees hit him hard.
Rodriguez was hit by a fastball his first time up and then homered off Dempster to start a four-run sixth inning that rallied the Yankees to a 9-6 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night.
The 3-0 pitch hit Rodriguez as led off the second inning, striking his left elbow pad and ricocheting off his back. It came after Dempster threw the initial pitch of the at-bat low and behind the slugger.
``No. I was trying to pitch him inside,'' Dempster said when asked if he hit Rodriguez on purpose. ``I'm more disappointed in the fact we couldn't hold a 6-3 lead. That's the bigger story. That game right there was in hand to win and I didn't do a very good job of making pitches in the sixth inning. I've got to execute better. The guys go out and score a bunch of runs against a guy like (CC) Sabathia and I've got to execute better. I just didn't do a good job there.''
Dempster (6-9) was tagged for seven runs on nine hits, walking one and striking out three in 5 1-3 innings.
``I don't know that he didn't hit him on purpose,'' Boston manager John Farrell said when asked if he thought Dempster did intend to hit him. ``I don't think he did.''
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected in the second after coming out of the dugout and hollering at plate umpire Brian O'Nora, who warned both benches immediately after Rodriguez was hit by Dempster.
Players streamed from the dugouts and benches of the longtime rivals, but no skirmishes developed.
The incident seemed to spark the Yankees, who were trailing 2-0 at the time.
``Overall, (Dempster) coming out of the game in the sixth inning kind of set things up to stage their comeback,'' Farrell said. ``Their bullpen held us down and ours didn't. ``
Dempster is 0-6 with a 7.57 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
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.
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. Mariano Rivera received a standing ovation as he ran in from the bullpen for the ninth. In his first appearance since blowing his third straight save a week earlier, he got his 36th save in 41 opportunities.
CC Sabathia (11-10) got the win.
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 to dead center field off Dempster to cut the lead to 6-4.
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 homer was the 649th of Rodriguez's career, leaving him 11 behind Willie Mays for fourth place on the career list.
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. Brett Gardner put the Yankees ahead with a three-run triple.
Rodriguez was one of four Yankees hit by pitches, but his was the only one that appeared to be intentional.
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 Jarrod 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.
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 Eduardo 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.