Friday, June 8, 2007

Shiiling's One Hit Masterpiece shuts Out A's

One out away, and as Oakland's Shannon Stewart settled into the batter's box, Jason Varitek flashed his fingers from his catcher's crouch. His signal was for a slider.

On the mound, Curt Schilling shook his head, something he'd done only five, 10 times tops, on this cloudless afternoon in which the sky was turquoise. He wanted to throw a fastball.

In the visitors' dugout, pitcher Josh Beckett's heart was pumping so fast, it was as if he, and not Schilling, was knocking on the door of fame, as broadcaster Ken Coleman once said of a kid pitcher from Toronto, Billy Rohr, at a similar moment 40 years earlier. David Ortiz was so nervous, having only lately noticed the zero under the "H" column for the home team, that teammates had to put fingers to their lips. Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Two more pitches, and it was over, Cora gathering Ellis's pop fly on the foul side of the right-field line to end it.

After the 425th start of Schilling's 19-year big-league career, there would be another entry for a one-hitter, the third of his career. He has never come closer to a no-no. In his 1992 one-hitter, against the Mets when he was pitching for the Phillies, Bobby Bonilla led off the fifth with a home run.

In the one-hitter he threw for the Diamondbacks against the Brewers in 2002, Raul Casanova's single came with one out in the third.

In Red Sox history, only two pitchers -- Rohr, who gave up a single to Elston Howard in Yankee Stadium in 1967, and Rick Wise, who in 1975 gave up a walk and a two-run home run to George Scott with two outs in the ninth in Milwaukee -- had experienced what Schilling did yesterday.

"Have I been this close to being part of one?" Cora said. "Not 10 feet."

But whatever disappointment Schilling felt, he was not going to betray his feelings, not as long as he was still on the mound. "It's 1-0," he said afterward. "As soon as [Stewart's] ball leaves the infield, that's done with. I've got to get this next guy out, and not allow something to slip away that shouldn't."

For the Red Sox, the stakes went beyond a no-hitter. They'd lost their last four games, their longest losing streak of the season, and six of seven. A loss yesterday and they were looking at being swept by Oakland and headed for Arizona to face another hot team, the Diamondbacks.

"We needed to win today, above everything else," Schilling said, "so it was very easy to stay focused on what we were trying to accomplish, which was to win the game. The fact that they had no hits going into the seventh, eighth, ninth reflected executing the game plan, but the focus was winning the game. We hadn't won the last couple of a days. This was a big win for us.

"I've never taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning before, but I've been in 1-0 games. You don't want to give the game away, getting caught up in something that had nothing to do with the outcome. I just stayed focused on pitch to pitch."

There was nothing in Schilling's warm-up before the game that telegraphed what was coming, Varitek said. "That's why you can't overevaluate a bullpen," Varitek said. "He was really fighting through his stuff, to be totally honest.

"I had one other guy, in the Cape Cod League, Jeff Alkire, whose bullpen was horrendous. Curt wasn't horrendous. But Alkire had nothing -- no feel, nothing -- and he goes out and throws a no-hitter."

Schilling wasn't sharp with his offspeed pitches early. "But the command of his fastball was there, right from the beginning," Varitek said. "That was the key."

This was not the Schilling who struck out 17 in his one-hitter against the Brewers. That Schilling relied on pure power. Yesterday was a swirling blend of cutters and changeups, sliders and splitters, pitches with which Schilling began to hit his spots with greater frequency, while the speed of his fastball also increased. The first 14 Athletics went down before Lugo's error. "It was an easy play," Lugo said, "but it took a little hop on me."

A dozen more Athletics would return to the dugout before Stewart's single. Schilling walked no one. Twelve Athletics went out on fly balls. Eleven were retired on grounders. Schilling struck out four.

"I felt good later in the game," he said. "I thought, velocity-wise, I got better as the game went on. Stuff-wise, I got sharper. I made some mistakes earlier. They hit some balls right at people, but defensively we made some great plays. It was a fun game to be part of."

And a better game, he said, to win.

"I think Eric Hinske said it best," Lowell said, "when he said, 'I've never seen our pitcher throw a shutout and we win, 1-0, and we're all disappointed.' But the game was a big one for us to win, and he gave it to us."

The ball was in Schilling's hands, and so was the decision. "I was sure he was taking," Schilling said. "Tek was sure he was swinging. I was wrong."

He threw a fastball, the fastest his 40-year-old arm had summoned all afternoon, registering 95 miles per hour on the electric scoreboard in McAfee Coliseum. Stewart swung, and the moment dissolved in regret. A line drive, sharply struck by the righthanded-hitting Stewart, kicked up dirt after streaking past second baseman Alex Cora, who never had a chance, and continued into right field.

"I had a plan," Schilling said. "I shook 'Tek off. And I've got the big 'what if' for the rest of my life."

The no-hitter was gone. The bid for a perfect game ended with two outs in the fifth, when shortstop Julio Lugo, who handled the first two chances in the ninth, ground balls by Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall, muffed a routine roller by first baseman Dan Johnson that hopped up on him at the last moment. Until Stewart's single, that error had accounted for Oakland's only base runner. Center fielder Coco Crisp sprinted to the wall to reach overhead and gather Kotsay's bid for extra bases to open the sixth ("That's when I said to myself, 'OK, this might really happen,' " Schilling said), and third baseman Mike Lowell smothered a tricky hopper by Mark Ellis down the third base line to start the seventh.

But the score was still 1-0, Ortiz's first-inning home run off Joe Blanton accounting for the only run, and now the tying run was on base. There was a game to be won. Varitek took a couple steps toward the mound, then caught a glimpse of Schilling's face.

"Curt had tremendous energy after that hit," Varitek said. "It's like he said, 'Hey, I'm going, I'm getting on this mound, let's go.' I started to take a timeout, but his demeanor pushed me right back to the plate."

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sox Lose 4th in a Row

Used to be, the Red Sox didn't have to work this hard for a smile here, even in moments of high anxiety. The locals were often happy to accommodate.

It was here that former Sox pitcher Derek Lowe, trying to close out a game but struggling with his control, was startled on the mound by a man wearing only a Minnesota Vikings cap who bolted onto the field and made naked cartwheels a demonstration sport. By the time Lowe stopped laughing, he was able to relocate the strike zone and the victory was secured.

There has been no shortage of weirdness here the last two nights, but none of it has been designed to bring relief to the Sox. Last night, the Sox lost their fourth game in a row, 3-2. It was their sixth loss in seven games and third straight this week to the Athletics, who have now beaten the Sox seven straight times in McAfee Coliseum.

"Everything's just changed, the intensity, all kinds of stuff, it's not there," said a weary-looking David Ortiz of a jet-lagged Sox offense that has scored just two runs in the last 18 innings.

Is the energy missing? "I don't know. We don't have the intensity we normally have," he said. "That's my view. We have a lot of guys trying, trying, trying, but not getting it done. Hopefully, we'll come out here [this afternoon] and win."

The intensity is missing, and so are the hits. Coco Crisp is 0 for 7 here, 4 for his last 29 overall. Julio Lugo is 1 for 10 here, 3 for his last 22. Dustin Pedroia, whose 14-game hitting streak came to an end Tuesday, is 1 for 10. Mike Lowell is 1 for 9.

J.D. Drew, meanwhile, remains anchored to the bench after being lifted for a pinch hitter Monday night, a damning indictment of his flimsy start. Drew, batting .159 in his last 33 games, sat for the second straight game against a lefthander until drawing a walk as a pinch hitter with two outs in the ninth against Santiago Ca silla last night, his deployment in that role a marker of how desperate the Sox were for a hit.

The Sox, who had not lost more than two in a row until arriving here after a red-eye flight Sunday, will try to salvage the final game of this four-game set this afternoon behind Curt Schilling, who will try to accomplish what Tim Wakefield last night could not do despite his best efforts.

Tuesday night, the Sox lost to former spare part Lenny DiNardo, who became the first opposing pitcher in at least 50 years to craft this bizarre pitching line at their expense: six innings, six walks, no whiffs, no runs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sox Commentary

It's not yet the All-Star break, but it looks like the tables have already begun to turn for the Boston Red Sox. And who should be surprised. Everyone is harking back to 1978 when the REd Sox collapse allowed the Yanks to win the Bucky Dent playoff game. But Sox fans don't have to go back that far. Is there no recent memory in Boston? Like how about last year, when The Sox were up by 6 at the All-Star break, Or the year before. Or even 2004 when Boston won it all. They still had a late season swoon that allowed the Yankees to win the division as they have the last 3 years.
This is not a championship team by a long shot. There are major holes in the lineup and now that the pitching has become suspect, Boston may be in for a long season. I hope I'm wrong, there are always a few flat spots in the schedule. But this seems like a major one. Boston plays Oakland again tonight with Wakefield on the mound. Wakefield has of late been unable to find the strike zone and when that happens, the walks come in handfuls and so do the runs. And that spells the 4th loss in a row and a sweep by Oakland as the Sox move on to West Division leading California. Our pitching rotation, which for two months has seemed invincible, is now showing signs of tarnish. And closer Jonathan Papelbon and set up man Okajima have not been as sharp as of late.
And look at our position players and compare them with the "struggling" Yankees. With the exception of Youkilis at first and Manny in left, I'd choose the Yankee players hands down: Posada over Veritek, CAno over Padroia, Jeter over Lugo, A Rod over Lowell, Melky Cabrera or Johnny Damon over Coco Crisp, and Bobby Abreu over whatever bum the Red Sox decide to put in right field for the night.

I know, I'm overly pessimistic. But I'm a Red Sox Fan and I've seen this kind of collapse happen too often not to be wary. Francona has his work cut out for him.

Sox Lose 3 in a row, 5 Out of the Last 6

David Ortiz broke his bat trying to drive the ball into the outfield. Instead, it nestled softly into the webbing of Eric Chavez's glove. The splintered bat, meanwhile, sent Dustin Pedroia diving to the ground, making for an easy double play.
It was the story of Tuesday night's game for the Boston Red Sox in a nice, neat at-bat during the eighth inning.

Former Boston pitcher Lenny DiNardo and four relievers (the save going to another former Sox pitcher Alan Embree) held the Red Sox to three hits and Oakland took the second game of the four-game series, 2-0.

"[Pedroia] takes a step, the bat goes flying, he lost the ball and fell," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That's the kind of night it was. This was about offensive frustration and not troubled pitching."

Boston couldn't get the ball out of the infield with any consistency. The Red Sox managed two hits and flew out twice against DiNardo. The other 16 outs were made in the infield. DiNardo did not strike anybody out.

The Red Sox loaded the bases twice against DiNardo (2-2) but came away empty-handed both times. Mike Lowell flew out to left in the first inning, and Kevin Youkilis grounded into a double play in the sixth.

"That was one pitch at the right time," Jason Varitek said. "We were one swing away from breaking it open. He was able to get the [broken bat] ground ball out of 'Youk' at a big part of the game."

DiNardo presented his former team with several gift opportunities by walking six batters. The Red Sox returned the favor by grounding into five double plays.

"He has to be able to throw strikes," Varitek said of his former teammate. "He has plenty of movement on his ball to set things up. He was throwing strikes away early in the count and getting things done. He made us hit balls at the wrong time to the wrong people."

DiNardo earned his first win as a starter since last May 7, when he was with the Red Sox. The six walks were a career-high.

"I'd characterize it as somewhat effectively wild," Lowell said. "When he missed, he missed by a lot. But when he had to make a pitch, he was able to execute it. You have to credit someone who is able to bear down. He made pitches; he got double plays and got out of jams."

Ortiz's soft liner in the eighth was double play number five on the night.

The Red Sox also had two runners on with one out in the seventh but were unable to manufacture a run. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

"Lenny, we've seen him a lot and know what he can do," Francona said. "We hit some balls hard and some not so hard. We couldn't push anyone across."

The Red Sox have now lost three in a row for the first time this year, and dropped their fifth in six games despite a quality start from Daisuke Matsuzaka.

"He gave up two runs in seven innings. That's definitely giving your team a chance to win," Lowell said. "I don't think he had his best stuff, but he was able to grind it out. You give up two runs, you expect to win."

Matsuzaka (7-4) allowed seven hits and struck out eight. He threw 129 pitches, the most by any pitcher in the Majors this season.

"He gave us a quality start and we didn't score any runs," Varitek said. "We hit the ball hard early but right at people. We couldn't get anything going."

Matsuzaka displayed much better command, walking three or fewer for the sixth straight game, and 10th in 12 games overall. Yet it was one of his two walks which came back to haunt him.

Matsuzaka walked No. 9 hitter Jason Kendall leading off the fifth. Two outs later, Nick Swisher cracked an RBI double.

"Swisher hit a good pitch there," Varitek said. "They got his pitch count up and we gave up the 0-2 home run." Eric Chavez hit a home run to lead off the fourth and give the A's the early edge. It was the seventh homer Matsuzaka allowed in his last six games after allowing two over his first six outings.

Pedroia saw his 14-game hitting streak end by going 0-for-1 with a walk, hit by pitch and sacrifice. Manny Ramirez also saw his seven-game hitting streak and Youkilis had his 11-game road hitting streak stopped. Just another indication of the "offensive frustration" to which Francona referred.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sleep Deprived Sox Lose 4th Out of Last 5th

OAKLAND, Calif. -- This was not something the Red Sox merely imagined in their sleep-deprived state, like Terry Francona arriving at the team's hotel after its all-night flight yesterday morning and mistaking the mirrors that lined the corridors as the way to his room.

Dan Haren, as he has all spring, did indeed pitch like a 21st-Century Walter Johnson for the Athletics last night, while second baseman Mark Ellis became just the sixth player in Oakland history to hit for the cycle.

But at the end of a 30-hour cycle in which the Sox squeezed in four excruciating hours Sunday night in Boston against the Yankees, a cross-country trip that landed in San Francisco around dawn, then an 11-inning ordeal against the Athletics, they can take a small measure of comfort in knowing they didn't just merely turn off the lights and roll over for their hosts here last night.

On the contrary. Before succumbing to the Athletics, 5-4, on Eric Chavez's walkoff home run off Kyle Snyder, the Sox nearly pilfered a game begun by their No. 5 starter, Julian Tavarez, who was once again matched up against the other team's ace, with their bullpen short-handed, and with four regulars on the bench.

"We showed up and did a very good job of playing, which is what we set out to do,'' Francona said. "We lost a heart-breaking game. It won't be heart-breaking tomorrow. It'll be over.''

The Sox were down to their last out in regulation when they scored twice to tie it. They then survived a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the ninth and took a shot at winning in the 10th, when Dustin Pedroia was cut down trying to score on David Ortiz's two-out double, which just missed being his second home run of the night, before Chavez did them in.

"I left a ball up over the was a mistake, and not a very well-timed one,'' Snyder said of that sudden bolt from Chavez, on a night that the Athletics had managed just one hit in 15 chances with runners in scoring position, including two futile attempts against Snyder in the 10th with two men on, one of them being Ellis, who blooped a single to complete his cycle.

Was it a mistake for third-base coach DeMarlo Hale to wave home Pedroia, who had singled to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, when Ortiz's ball caromed true to center-fielder Mark Kotsay, the subsequent relay enabling Oakland catcher Jason Kendall to apply a necktie tag on the Sox rookie? Only because it didn't work out. The rationale was sound.

"I didn't have much of a lead at first, because the lefty (Athletics reliever Ron Flores) has a good move,'' Pedroia said, "and David's hitting, too, so you've got to be kind of heads up there"I saw (the carom) out of the corner of my eye. I knew DeMarlo was going to send me. It was the right play. They made a perfect relay. I was out by 10 feet.''

Before it was over, Francona, who had crafted a makeshift lineup so a few people could get some rest, wound up canceling all shore leave. After Ortiz, who earlier snapped his homerless streak at 19 games (and 69 at-bats), doubled to open the ninth, Jason Varitek, in what may have been history's first known case of a man pinch-hitting for a $70 million right-fielder (J.D. Drew), wobbled a badminton shot over first baseman Nick Swisher's head for a run-scoring single. Varitek then yielded to pinch-runner Coco Crisp, who was on the move and scored the tying run on a double by Wily Mo Pena, who was playing only because Crisp had begun the night with a bellyache and earlier had homered.

The rally, accompanied by the roars of a crowd tilted in the Sox favor, came at the expense of former Sox reliever Alan Embree, thrust in the closer's role because the normal closer, Huston Street (ulnar nerve), and his most trusted setup man, Justin Duchscherer (hip), were out with injuries. The Sox, meanwhile, were going without closer Jonathan Papelbon and Hideki Okajima, their two most reliable late-inning options.

A four-pitch walk by Joel Pineiro, whose wildness had led to a run in the eighth, and an error by the substitute first baseman, Eric Hinske, to start the bottom of the ninth had the Sox 90 feet away from calling it a night. That probability was reinforced when J.C. Romero entered and walked the first man he faced, Dan Johnson. But Romero struck out Chavez and Bobby Crosby got overanxious on a 2-and-0 pitch and rolled to Kevin Youkilis, who started a third-to-home-to-first double play.

Bonus panels. The Sox were denied by Crosby's exquisite relay, then Snyder rescued Romero in the 10th. He inherited a two-on, one-out situation and retired Shannon Stewart on a check-swinger tap to the mound, then raced over to cover first on Buck's slow roller up the line, pitcher and base-runner bumping fenders at the bag, but Snyder retaining his grip on the ball.

Still, Snyder's fine work before Chavez took him deep did nothing to ease the sting.

"I think it shows the resilience this team has,'' he said of the lengths to which the Sox went to win last night. "We're tough. We don't quit. (But) a loss is a loss. It's never fun. No matter what the course of events that led up to it.''

The way events were unfolding, the Sox could have found themselves without a catcher if something had happened to Doug Mirabelli."I know (Mike) Lowell said he caught in Little League,'' Francona said of the Sox third baseman, whose day off abruptly ended when he was summoned to pinch hit for Hinske in the 10th and flied out. "That would probably have been good enough. At that point, we were just trying to win the game. I guarantee you somebody would have run up and volunteered. I mean, Wake (Tim Wakefield) was out there running to get his spikes tonight. That's the kind of group we have. That wouldn't have been an issue.''

Haren, who began the night with the majors' best earned run average (1.64), gave up four hits, including the bases-empty home runs by Ortiz and Pena. He walked one and struck out nine in 7 2./3 innings, including J.D. Drew, Pena and Mirabelli twice apiece. The last batter he faced was Pedroia, his hitting streak sprouting an expiration date after four at-bats without reaching base.

Haren, a former Pepperdine star, has allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of his 13 starts, and has allowed more than four hits only once in his last half-dozen starts. He has made seven straight starts without allowing more than two runs, and has done so only once in his last 10 starts.

"He is a dominant pitcher,'' Francona said. "I think in some circles he goes under the radar, (but) not with us. I mean, this guy's been good for a long time. He's got velocity, movement, one of the better splits in the game. and a breaking ball.''

But Tavarez, despite a rapidly ascending pitch count (107) that led to his dismissal with two outs in the sixth, gave a good accounting of himself. His primary shortcoming was his inability to handle Ellis. Ellis hit a two-run triple in the second after a walk and hit-and-run single by Kotsay in the second, then led off the fourth with a home run. He also doubled off Tavarez before his exit in the sixth.

And so it was to bed, at an hour in which most of New England had long since given last call.

"It wears you out,'' Ortiz said. "But we've got no choice. We have to play. I'm surprised we had the game we did. It's tough. Hopefully, they'll fix that stuff (the schedule).''

Monday, June 4, 2007

Marquise Hill Honored by Former LSU & Patriots Teammates

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- As he stood near the casket of late New England Patriots and LSU teammate Marquise Hill, defensive lineman Jarvis Green swallowed hard, took some deep breaths and offered a few fond memories to Hill's grieving relatives.

"He made everybody laugh," Green said. "The first time I met him he made me laugh and the last time I talked to him he made me laugh. He worked hard. He gave his all. ... That's the kind of person he was."

Hill, a 24-year-old father of a 2-year-old son, was buried on Saturday, nearly a week after his death in a personal watercraft accident on Lake Pontchartrain.

The former LSU defensive end, who won a national championship with the Tigers in 2003, had yet to see regular playing time in three seasons with the Patriots. Yet he had won the hearts of numerous college and pro teammates who remembered him as a strong, caring and vibrant man who improved the lives of those who knew him.

Virtually the entire Patriots team, including coach Bill Belichick and his assistants, attended his wake on Friday night. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who had coached Hill at LSU, also was there.

Green, New England defensive back Randall Gay and Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, who all played at LSU, remained for the funeral the following day, along with numerous current and former Tigers players, many of whom now play for other NFL squads.

"Everybody kind of got a chance to see each other, but it's kind of a bad time because we lost one of our brothers," said New York Giants defensive back Corey Webster, who described Hill, a former teammate at LSU, as the type of person who could always be counted on to help friends and loved ones get through tough times.

"In times like this, people would lean on him because he knew how to make people laugh, take the edge off," Webster said. "He's not here right now, you know, but he's in a better place. I know he would want everyone to be happy."

Others at the funeral included Colts running back Joseph Addai, Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Michael Clayton, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and Kansas City Chiefs rookie Dwayne Bowe.

Saints players, in the midst of minicamp, were not able to attend on Saturday, but had a chance to go to the wake on Friday night, said receiver Devery Henderson, who was a teammate of Hill on LSU's 2003 squad.

The funeral was held in a spacious gospel church which Hill attended as a child. Red roses were piled high on the casket. Resting on the flowers was a football, a section of which had been stitched in smooth, white leather and decorated with the symbols of the Patriots and LSU Tigers, along with Hill's name and the years of his birth and death.

Beside the casket was a large action photo of Hill during one of his final LSU games. He stood in triumph, arms folded, above then-Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning as fellow LSU players nearby raised their arms in celebration.

Since he had turned pro, Hill continued to spend much of his free time with family in New Orleans or working out at LSU's Baton Rouge campus, where he developed close friendships with current LSU coach Les Miles and current Tigers players, who also were at the funeral.

Hill's family was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but Hill had been helping them rebuild and was home for Memorial Day weekend when he and a friend went for a ride on a personal watercraft without life vests.

They fell into the water. The woman survived by holding onto a pylon. Hill, who friends described as a strong swimmer, drowned in an area of swirling currents. The Orleans Parish coroner has said Hill's head showed signs of bruising and that he may have had a concussion that left him disoriented.

At the church, Hill's former LSU teammate and roommate, Ben Wilkerson, sought to console Hill's mother, Sherry, while addressing the crowd as one of the funeral speakers.

"Ms. Hill, you know, you lost a son," Wilkerson said, then nodded toward the collection of Hill's former college and pro teammates. "But if you look to your right, you have so many sons over there. He was our brother. He was our family. It will be a journey with him not with us any more. But he wants us to be strong because he was such a strong person."

Sox Best Pitchers Can't Quiet Yankee Bats

Boston, MA (Sports Network) - Alex Rodriguez's home run in the top of the ninth lifted the New York Yankees over the Boston Red Sox, 6-5, in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

Rodriguez, who ended 2-for-5 with two RBI, drove an 0-2 pitch from Jonathan Papelbon (0-1) over the wall in right-center with two outs, helping the Yankees take two of three from the AL East leaders and pull within 12 1/2 games of the Red Sox.

Jorge Posada and Josh Phelps also had two hits and drove in a run apiece for New York, which improved to 3-3 on its current 10-game road trip that will continue on Monday with the opener of a four-game set against the Chicago White Sox.

Brian Bruney (2-1) got the win, tossing one inning of relief. Mariano Rivera worked the ninth, retiring David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez before hitting Kevin Youkilis and then striking out Mike Lowell, for his fifth save of the season.

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in three runs for the Red Sox, who lost for only the second time in eight games and ended a six-game homestand 3-3.

Boston starter Josh Beckett pitched well, but didn't record a decision. The right-hander, who has won his first eight decisions, left the game with a chance to earn the win, but received a no-decision instead. He was charged with four runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

After New York tied the game an inning earlier, Rodriguez ended a tumultuous week in dramatic fashion. The week started for the New York slugger with a newspaper report inferring infidelity, continued with a controversial play while running the bases in Toronto and continued in Boston as he made sure he was seen in public dinning with his wife.

Rodriguez now has 20 homers this season and few have been bigger. If the Yankees are to get back into the playoff picture, taking two of three from Boston, the best team in the majors, is a good start.

The Yankees began the scoring in the second inning. With one out Posada doubled, moved to third on Hideki Matsui's single and scored on Phelps' two- out single that went off the glove of Julio Lugo at short.

New York extended its lead in the fifth. Phelps and Melky Cabrera singled to start the inning. After Johnny Damon flew out and Derek Jeter grounded into a fielder's choice, Bobby Abreu walked to load the bases for Rodriguez, who came through with an infield single to third. On the play, Jeter followed Phelps home as Lowell was charged with a throwing error.

Posada then singled home Abreu for a 4-0 Yankees' cushion.

Boston, though, rallied in the bottom of the inning, scoring five times to take the lead and also knocking New York starter Andy Pettitte from the contest.

Jason Varitek, Wily Mo Pena and Coco Crisp hit consecutive singles to start the inning and load the bases. Pedroia then doubled to clear the bases and draw the Red Sox within one run.

Ortiz followed with a single to chase home Pedroia with the tying run and advanced all the way to third when Abreu misplayed the ball in right field.

Luis Vizcaino then came on for Pettitte and intentionally walked Ramirez before Youkilis lifted a sacrifice fly to center that scored Ortiz with the go-ahead run.

Pettitte allowed five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking one.

Boston had a chance to add a run in the sixth, but Lugo was thrown out at the plate on a Pedroia double to end the inning.

The Yankees got Pettitte off the hook in the eighth. After Hideki Matsui singled, Robinson Cano tripled against Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima. However, Okajima got out of any further trouble by striking out Phelps and inducing ground outs from Cabrera and Damon, as New York stranded the go-ahead run at third.

Game Notes

This was the 12th meeting of the season between these two clubs, with the Red Sox winning seven...Ramirez went 2-for-4 for Boston...Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz could miss up to six weeks after suffering a concussion, cervical sprain and a broken bone in his right wrist in a collision with Lowell on Saturday...Boston begins a seven-game road trip in Oakland on Monday.

Rebel's Bats Clobber Sam Houston St.

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- No. 9 batter Alex Kliman had four hits and drove in five runs - nearly half his season total of 12 RBIs - as Ole Miss beat Sam Houston 21-13 on Sunday to win the NCAA Oxford regional.

Kliman was one of nine Ole Miss hitters with at least one RBI and the Rebels set a season high for runs and hits (22). Ole Miss batted around in two innings against the Bearkats (40-24), who finally ran out of juice after two consecutive comeback victories in the regional.

The first nine Rebels (40-23) who batted in the fourth inning scored to put the game away and Ole Miss failed to score in just two innings.

Ole Miss advances to its third straight super regional. The Rebels were ousted by Miami and Texas the last two seasons. They have not been to the College World Series since 1972.

Ole Miss will travel to Arizona State next weekend, after the Sun Devils defeated Nebraska Sunday to win the Tempe regional championship.

Two errors helped Sam Houston to a quick 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Ole Miss batted around for the first time in the bottom of the inning and led 6-3.

The Bearkats, who came from behind four times earlier Sunday to eliminate Southern Miss 12-11 in 11 innings, weren't done mounting comebacks. Bobby Verbick hit a three-run homer and Sam Houston scored five runs in the top of the fourth to take an 8-7 lead.

But the Rebels pounced in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of three Bearkats errors and six hits to take a 16-8 lead.

Reliever Craig Rodriguez (2-2) took over in the fourth inning and picked up the win after giving up two hits and one run in 3 1-3 innings. Jim Bob Farris (0-1) gave up 13 hits and 14 runs, 10 earned, in the loss.

Evan Button finished with three runs and three RBIs for Ole Miss. Justin Henry was 4-for-5 from the dish, and Zack Cozart and Zach Miller collected three hits apiece.

Oxford Regional All Tournament Team

NCAA Oxford Regional All-Tournament Team

MVP: Lance Lynn, P, Ole Miss
C, Alex Kliman, Ole Miss
1B, Josh Dew, Troy
2B, Zach Miller, Ole Miss
3B, Chris Matesich, Southern Miss
SS, Brian Dozier, Southern Miss
OF, Jordan Henry, Ole Miss

OF, Keith Stein, Sam Houston

OF, Justin Henry, Ole Miss

OF, Bobby Verbick, Sam Houston

DH, Karl Krailo, Sam Houston

P, Lance Lynn, Ole Miss
P, Ryan Belanger, Southern Miss