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Bounce in their step

Sox roll past Yankees, hit road on a high

Curt Schilling drummed into his teammates' heads that Saturday's third-inning brawl and the subsequent walkoff home run off Mariano Rivera would mean nothing if there wasn't a carryover effect.

The drumbeat was heard. The Red Sox, 9-6 winners over the Yankees last night, embarked happily on a four-city, 12-game road trip after beating the Yankees two games out of three in a memorable series the day before the start of the Democratic National Convention.

"Hopefully, it will carry over, not just to tonight, but for the rest of the season," said Sox manager Terry Francona, who was facing the long trip with Trot Nixon on the disabled list and catcher Jason Varitek still stinging from a sore right wrist after injuring it in the brawl Saturday.

At least Francona knows he might have a confident Derek Lowe back after he pitched 6 2/3 innings of good baseball under pressure-packed circumstances. His pitching enabled the Sox to carry out the carryover.

The Sox at least weren't obliterated from the AL East race as they stand 7 1/2 games behind the Yankees and a half-game ahead of the White Sox and A's in the wild-card race.

Asked if he thought the Red Sox were back in the race, Yankees manager Joe Torre said, "Well, I think you're never out of the race. I'm not worried about them. We don't play them any more now for a while. We certainly need to pitch better than we have this series."

The Fenway crowd -- which included presidential candidate John Kerry -- was certainly electric. Prime Yankee villain Alex Rodriguez was booed every time he stepped to the plate.

While the Sox pounded Jose Contreras for six runs in the first two innings, Lowe, who overcame a 2-0 deficit to hold the Yankees scoreless before departing with two outs in the seventh, two runners on and a 9-2 lead.

Though he was charged with four runs, only two were earned as reliever Mike Timlin allowed a grand slam to Hideki Matsui in the seventh that made the game interesting. Lowe threw 119 pitches before giving way to Timlin, who surrendered the Matsui bomb after walking Jorge Posada.

The Sox escaped a major crisis in the eighth when the fans got a glimpse of new reliever Terry Adams, who started well by striking out Tony Clark but walked Enrique Wilson and allowed a double to Kenny Lofton. That forced Francona to use Keith Foulke to face Derek Jeter.

In the most bizarre play of the game, Jeter hit a liner off Foulke's body and catcher Doug Mirabelli threw to first and hit Jeter in the back. Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt determined Jeter was running inside the baseline, ruled him out, and forced Wilson to return to third base. Foulke, examined by trainer Jim Rowe before resuming, got Gary Sheffield to line out to left to escape the jam.

"That's just a bad-luck situation," Torre said of the Jeter play. "[The umpire] made the right call. It's a silly rule because you have to come back on that side to touch the bag."

The Sox crushed Yankees pitching for 13 hits, including three homers (Johnny Damon, Mark Bellhorn, and Kevin Millar), the big blow a three-run Pesky's Pole shot by Damon in the second inning. Millar, with three hits (and four RBIs) paced the Sox assault.

Millar was the star of the homestand, going 14 for 20, and 10 for 13 against the Yankees with four homers and eight RBIs.

Damon, who also made a great catch against the wall in the first inning to rob Matsui of extra bases (though it was a sacrifice fly that drove in the second Yankee run), was certainly pleased with his night -- 3 for 5, three RBIs. "That was the first time I'd done anything against [Contreras]. Our lineup needs to stay consistent. I think the biggest reason we're in the position we're in is because we can't seem to put teams away." Contreras was staked to a 2-0 advantage by the Yankees, who dinked and dunked their way to the lead against Lowe, who also needed to prove himself and show the blister on his right thumb wouldn't again hinder his outing.

Right off the bat, Lowe received no support from his defense. Leadoff man Lofton blooped a double to center that Damon seemed to get a slow jump on. Jeter sacrificed Lofton to third. Lofton scored on Sheffield's bloop single to center that Damon said he lost in the "early-evening sky," requiring right fielder Gabe Kapler to dive, to no avail. The Yankees scored again on the Matsui sacrifice fly. But Lowe toughened.

"I didn't throw any sinker away," Lowe said of his strategy. "I probably threw five. When you pitch against a team over and over, you've got to make adjustments. Looking at the game tape, it seemed like they were just looking for sinkers away, so we didn't give it to them."

The Sox evened the score with two of their own, surviving a great diving stab and throw to the plate by Rodriguez at third with a clutch two-out single by Millar, which dropped in front of a charging Lofton in center.

Contreras hurt himself in the second by hitting Mirabelli with a pitch. Kapler followed with a single to left, which was the perfect setting for Damon's three-run Pesky's Pole homer, his 13th. The crowd, erupting for several moments, maintained the decibel level when Bellhorn drove a Contreras fastball into the Yankee bullpen for his his 12th homer, giving the Sox a 6-2 lead.

Contreras settled down in the third and fourth innings after a horrible start. But Millar ended the good times in the fifth when he pounced on a 1-and-0, 91-mile-per-hour fastball and deposited it into the Monster seats, his sixth homer in the last five games, to give the Sox a 7-2 lead.

It got dicier, as it always does, but the Sox were able to hold off disaster, and tonight the carryover must continue in what may be the biggest challenge this team has faced this year.

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