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fight!

Hey, the Yanks and Sox Had a ‘Brawl’ Last Night!

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 30:  Francisco Cervelli #17 of the New York Yankees reacts after he is hit by a pitch as catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Boston Red Sox and home plate umpire Ed Rapuano try to calm Cervelli down on August 30, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Yeah, totally like MMA, this.

We'd only lived in New York for about three years when the great 2003 ALCS Game 3 brawl broke out — the Pedro-Martinez-tossing-Don-Zimmer-to-the-ground one — so we're not sure we appreciated it as much as we should have, at the time. At the height of the Yankees–Red Sox rivalry, with history on the line, with the decade's signature two teams battling it out on the grandest stage ... all of a sudden a legitimate fight broke out. It's sort of amazing that it happened. It was only eight years ago, yet it seems impossible to imagine that happening today.

You realize how lucky we were when you see pretend spats like the one the Yankees and Red Sox had last night, in which Francisco Cervelli offended the sensibilities of the delicate by clapping too hard when the Yankees scored a run and was rewarded with a fastball to the back from John Lackey. The benches sorta cleared, and tempers sorta flared, but not really. It was one of those lame baseball fights in which no one actually fights, but boy they really want to, and it's a good thing this guy's holding me back or you'd be TOAST.

The faux kerfuffle obscured a terrific, gutsy performance by CC Sabathia, throwing a Dusty Baker-esque 128 pitches en route to a 5–2 Yankees victory. The Yankees are now only a half-game behind the Red Sox, and a win tonight would put them back in first place for the third time this month. It doesn't matter, of course: Both the Yankees and Sox are securely in the playoffs. But it just feels better to be in first, more just.

Let's just hope this is a prelude to a real fight in the 2011 ALCS. What's the 2011 equivalent? Maybe Jonathan Papelbon throwing Tony Pena to the ground? It just doesn't have the same ring to it.

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Photo: Elsa/2011 Getty Images