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Win or lose, Red Sox are decisively a draw

Red Sox plus Yankees equals big TV ratings in both Boston and New York.

Friday night's series opener at Fenway Park earned a 21.6 rating (35 audience share), the best number a Channel 38 Red Sox telecast has earned during "the modern era" of cable.

Even though Friday's 6-4 loss took some of the momentum out of the series, there was enough left for Saturday night's telecast to post a 16.7 -- making it the highest-rated program in NESN's 20-year history. Sunday's finale matched that with another 16.7 rating.

Clearly, the Sox fandom perceived the opening game of the series as pivotal, tuning in to see if the Sox could sweep the three games and mount one last run at catching the Yankees for the AL East title.

The 21.6 rating it produced was good news at Channel 38.

"My database goes back to 1996," said Channel 38 research director Ross Kramer, "and this is the highest-rated regular-season game. It's certainly the best in the cable era when people have so many options for viewing."

Of course, the flip side is that the Sox juggernaut could bode ill for the rest of the Boston market. They could make prime time TV a virtual washout for the next month if they advance to the World Series.

In New York, Friday's game registered the second-highest rating ever on YES Network, an 8.5, which translates to 627,000 households because a ratings point in New York is equal to 73,557 homes, whereas a point in Boston is equal to 23,918 homes. Thus Friday's 21.6 rating in Boston would have been seen in 516,628 homes.

Spooky world
"60 Minutes" or "The Twilight Zone"? NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was burned when his Corvette spun out and caught fire during practice for a race in Sonoma, Calif., July 18, told CBS's Mike Wallace that he believes his father, who died in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, helped him survive the fiery wreck. "I had my PR man by the collar screaming at him to find the guy that pulled me out of the car," recalls Earnhardt. "He was like, `Nobody helped you get out,' and I was like, `That's strange because I swear somebody had me underneath my arms and was carrying me out of the car.' I mean, I swear to God." Wallace asks, "And that was your dad?" Earnhardt responds, "Yeah, I don't know. You tell me. It freaks me out today just talking about it. It just gives me chills." The interview airs on "60 Minutes" tomorrow (Channel 4, 8 p.m.) . . . ESPN's original movie "Hu$tle" did only a 0.5 rating in the Boston market Saturday night, when it was up against Sox-Yankees . . . This Saturday's Sox-Orioles doubleheader is a Fox afternoon telecast with NESN carrying the 7 p.m. nightcap. Jerry Remy will join play-by-play man Mel Proctor for the afternoon telecast, then work the late game with NESN's Don Orsillo.

Fight nights
HBO is promoting Saturday night's Felix Trinidad-Ricardo Mayorga bout by broadcasting a 45-minute special on the classic Trinidad-William Joppy (May 2001) and Mayorga-Vernon Forrest I (January 2003) bouts Friday (HBO2, 10 p.m.) and Saturday (HBO2, 5 p.m.) . . . Entercom may not be allowing WEEI to stream its audio on the web, but has no problem putting the station's shows on its site during its remote "Patriots Monday" broadcasts from Gillette Stadium . . . WWZN's Eddie Andelman will be live from the Prudential tomorrow at noon as the Celtics play H-O-R-S-E with the lunchtime crowd, getting set for next week's training camp in Vermont . . . Speaking of the Celtics, the Globe's Shira Springer has a one-on-one interview with Paul Pierce on tomorrow night's "Sportsplus" (NESN, 11:30 p.m.). Host Bob Lobel will be joined by Globe columnists Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy on the set . . . FSN is running a new promotional campaign for "New England Sports Tonight" (6:30 and 10 p.m.) featuring hosts Gary Tanguay and Greg Dickerson in a takeoff of "The Odd Couple." The spots cleverly incorporate frequent media guests Steve Buckley, Sean McAdam, Andy Gresh, and Michael Felger. However, if they run as often as the old promos in which the duo's "fans" chased them around the Esplanade, we may wish those fans caught them.

In the lineup Sunday's NFL TV lineup leads off with Patriots-Bills (Channel 4, 1 p.m., available in high definition). CBS follows with Jets-Dolphins (Channel 4, 4 p.m., also in HD), and Fox brings in Falcons-Panthers (Channel 25, 4 p.m., also in HD) . . . Channel 4 has Tennessee-Georgia football Saturday at 3:30 p.m., also scheduled as an HD telecast . . . NESN will air the Boston College-UMass football game Saturday at 1 . . . Sean McDonough will work with former Patriot Craig James Thursday to call UConn-Pittsburgh (ESPN2, 7 p.m.) . . . Tomorrow, Dan Marino sits down with fellow Pennsylvania-bred quarterback Joe Namath in a long-form interview on HBO's "Inside the NFL" at 10 p.m. . . . Channel 4's Dan Roche visited Sox owner John Henry's box during a recent game and came away with a few tidbits for Sunday's "Red Sox This Week" -- specifically, that agent Scott Boras won't let Jason Varitek sign despite Sox offers and that the team wanted to open against the Yankees next year but instead will start the '05 season on the West Coast . . . Terry Bradshaw's top 10 list of NFL quarterbacks -- with Tom Brady at No. 1 -- generated some disagreement on "Fox NFL Sunday." "A simple little suggestive list turns the network upside-down," said Bradshaw later. Bradshaw's list continued with 2. Brett Favre; 3. Donovan McNabb; 4. Steve McNair; and 5. Peyton Manning; 6. Daunte Culpepper; 7. Michael Vick; 8. Matt Hasselbeck; 9. Chad Pennington; 10. Jake Delhomme.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is 

In Today's Globe
Saturday RHE
Red Sox 7 8 0
Orioles 5 10 1
WP:Adams LP:Cabrera
 Box score  Log  Scores
Sat. (Game 2) RHE
Red Sox 7 11 0
Orioles 5 9 0
WP:Kim LP:Gimsley
 Box score  Log  Scores
Next: Sun. vs. Bal, 1:35 pm
TV:NESN Radio: WEEI 850-AM
Starting pitchers:
BOS: Lowe BAL: Bauer
 Complete schedule  Sox stats
Pop-up Red Sox probable pitchers
Fenway rally
The Sox are planning a "Rally Monday" event at Fenway Park on the eve of Game 1 of the ALDS. It begins at noon and is free.
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