The fireworks between Boston and New York started in the second inning and didn't die down until late in the night.
The Yankees won, 9-6, but it was the second inning of a four-hour game that generated much of the buzz.
After the Red Sox scored two runs off starter CC Sabathia in the bottom of the first inning, Alex Rodriguez led off the top of the second. Boston starter Ryan Dempster proceeded to throw the first pitch low and behind Rodriguez to the backstop. The 89-mph fastball received a loud ovation from the Fenway Park crowd.
Two pitches later, Dempster came up and inside with a 92-mph fastball, which hit Rodriguez in the left shoulder. While Rodriguez stared out at the mound, home plate umpire Brian O'Nora warned both benches. Yankees manager Joe Girardi erupted from the dugout, charging O'Nora, and yelling in his face apparently upset Dempster was not ejected after what appeared to be an intentional hit by pitch.
Girardi was almost immediately ejected from the game.
Former Red Sox starter Curt Schilling, calling the game for ESPN, called it "as intentional as it gets."
Rodriguez would later score in the inning on a single by Eduardo Nunez, but he'd get his full measure of revenge in the sixth inning. Rodriguez led off the inning with a towering home run to straight-away center field on a 1-0 count. He pumped his fist and shouted rounding first base.
He is batting .319 with two home runs since his return.
The explosive game was a culmination of a strange day for the Yankees and Rodriguez.
Before the game, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman addressed the allegations made by Rodriguez's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, that the team did not want Rodriguez to return from injury and even openly sabotaged his comeback prior to his offseason hip surgery. Tacopina claims Yankee president Randy Levine told surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly prior to the operation, "I don't ever want to see him back on the field again." Levine strenuously denied he said that.
"I was on every conference call with Dr. Kelly and Randy," Cashman told reporters before Sunday's game. "I can tell you that did not happen."
Rodriguez's representatives previously made claims the Yankees were trying to keep him off the field when he was rehabbing from the hip surgery and strained his quadriceps. Rodriguez said he spoke with Cashman and ironed out those issues before returning to the major leagues a week later.
But the two are clearly not on good terms based on Cashman's comments Sunday.
"I'm not comfortable talking to Alex about this because we feel we are in a litigious environment," Cashman said. "Hello and goodbye, that's about it. I'm not comfortable talking to him anymore. I don't want to be distorted."
ESPN reported Sunday that Rodriguez's representatives reached out to the MLB players' association to file a grievance over how his medical situation has been handled by the Yankees. In addition to the claims Tacopina made against Levine, he also said the Yankees knowingly played Rodriguez in the 2012 postseason even though his hip was injured.
Girardi eventually benched Rodriguez in the playoffs because he was struggling so badly.
Rodriguez is currently appealing his 211-game suspension handed down by MLB on Aug. 5. The appeal will likely not be heard until after the season is over, however.
As for the actual play on the field Sunday, there were a handful of storylines overshadowed by Rodriguez.
CC Sabathia picked up the win, but struggled badly. He won allowing six or more runs for the first time in his career. He was removed after 5 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on seven hits and five walks.
He had an explosive Yankee offense to thank. They finished with 17 hits, including seven from the top three spots in the lineup and three each from Rodriguez and Eduardo Nunez. Brett Gardner had maybe the biggest hit of the night with a bases-loaded triple in the sixth inning to take a 7-6 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Mariano Rivera, who had blown three straight saves, secured his 36th save this season. He got the first two outs on four pitches and while he then allowed two baserunners, he got Jarrod Saltalamacchia to fly out to left to end the game.
Nunez had to be removed in the sixth inning after his third hit with a hamstring injury.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.