In an era of increasing intolerance for users of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball Alex Rodriguez has been the target of sharp criticism from his peers and on Sunday a fastball at his midsection from Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster.

A-Rod has maintained that not everyone's against him and an unexpected figure rose to his defense Wednesday.

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz stuck up for his pal and voiced disapproval of his teammate hitting A-Rod in a game in which Boston squandered a three-run lead and lost 9-6 to the New York Yankees.

"I didn't like it. I don't think it was the right thing to do'' Ortiz told USA TODAY Sports. "But we don't all think alike and the guy who did it Dempster is a great guy. It's not that I didn't think it was right because Alex and I are friends because once you cross the white lines everyone's on their own.

"But we've got Tampa right on our heels and that pitch woke up a monster in the Yankees' team at that moment. You saw how the game ended up. CC (Sabathia) was throwing 91 (mph) and started throwing 96. Alex later hit one way out there. You're talking about a good team that you can't wake up. But we learn from our mistakes.''

The Yankees who trailed Boston by 11½ games on Aug. 7 are on a four-game winning streak that has trimmed their deficit to 6½ games.

The Red Sox who beat the San Francisco Giants 12-1 on Wednesday hold a one-game lead in the American League East over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Ortiz who started at first base instead of his usual DH spot because the Red Sox were playing in a National League park left in the fifth inning with tightness in his lower back. It wasn't considered serious.

In a Spanish-language interview before the game Ortiz also touched on Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game suspension and baseball's seemingly unshakable link with PEDs.

The topic that got him started though was Dempster drilling A-Rod which some observers have interpreted as revenge from players in general for Rodriguez continuing to drag the game through the steroids mud by fighting the punishment meted out by Major League Baseball for his involvement in the Biogenesis case.

Ortiz's comments stand in contrast not only to Dempster's actions but also to comments by Boston pitchers John Lackey and Jon Lester. Both had said they didn't think Rodriguez should be allowed to play while serving his suspension.