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Hitting back

Red Sox bats go wild as they pound Yankees, even series

NEW YORK -- For the second consecutive day, the Red Sox matched a season high by leaving 13 men on base. This time, however, that was a mere footnote to a brazen display of offense on an afternoon at Yankee Stadium that won't soon be forgotten.

The Sox bats, indomitable by reputation only in recent weeks, cranked out 27 hits (one shy of the club record), 21 singles (three shy of the club record), and 17 runs, blistering the Yankees, 17-1, in the most lopsided Sox win in the 1,928 meetings between the American League baseball teams of Boston and New York.

The Sox, who sent 57 men to the plate and batted around twice (in the fifth and eighth innings), never had beaten the Yankees by more than 14 until yesterday before a benumbed 55,315 at the Stadium.

The Yankees, in going 15-2 before this series, had held opponents to a .243 batting average. The last two games, a Sox loss and win, respectively, Boston is batting .427 (38 for 89). Carl Pavano (3 2/3 innings, 11 hits, 5 runs) was roundly booed as he exited, and yet those who followed -- Mike Stanton, Paul Quantrill, and Buddy Groom -- combined to give up 12 runs. Quantrill alone surrendered three homers.

''It's kind of obvious, but we needed this," said Sox manager Terry Francona, whose team arrived at the Stadium yesterday winless in a season-high four straight games. ''Not as much the win, but to have the time to take a breath."

The moment of exhalation came after the Sox' half of the fifth inning, when Edgar Renteria (3 for 3, HR, 5 RBIs) propelled a grand slam to the opposite field and Trot Nixon (3 for 6, HR, 5 RBIs) launched a three-run blast to center for a seven-run inning and 12-0 lead. By the middle of the fifth, the game's midpoint, the Sox were outhitting the Yankees, 17-2, and the paying customers were, well, displeased.

''It's nice to be coming off the field with Yankees fans [yelling]," Francona said. ''I kind of missed that a little bit."

Whether this is a seminal moment -- whether May 28 becomes to the 2005 Sox what July 24 was to the 2004 edition -- won't be known for weeks, if not longer. But it was an epic performance in which numerous Red Sox affirmed for themselves foremost, and the fan base second, their capabilities.

Renteria, the Sox' cerebral shortstop, improved to 6 for 7 in the series and 12 for 19 through four games of this six-game road trip. He's turned a .239 average into .281 in four days. However improbable this might be, with a 5-for-5 performance tonight, Renteria would come home to Fenway Park with a .301 average.

''I'm working to be one of the best, to be an All-Star shortstop," Renteria said. ''I could be like, 'Oh, I got my money. I don't care what the team's doing. I got my money.' But that's not me. That's why I work hard every day to be one of the best.

''I don't know who said I can't play with pressure. I had pressure my rookie year when I came up. They gave me shortstop position, and second year we won the World Series."

Renteria, in responding to critics and working out of a prolonged slump, has tweaked his stance in recent days. Previously, his left foot, the one closer to the pitcher, was extremely close to the plate. Now his feet are more in line. And, he had difficulty keeping his weight back. So hitting coach Ron Jackson suggested that Renteria focus on pushing down with his back leg as he's beginning his swing, keeping his weight balanced and back.

Jay Payton, the Sox' backup outfielder, in relief of Manny Ramirez as the game got out of hand, homered to deep center off the facing of the black seats. Payton, who was hitting .200 four days ago, has played in three straight games and collected four hits in nine at-bats, improving his average to .229 with 17 RBIs in 79 at-bats.

Matt Clement pitched his way out of jams in the second inning (two on, two out), third inning (two on, two out), fourth inning (two on, no outs), and fifth inning (bases loaded, two outs).

He induced John Flaherty to fly out to end the second and fanned Hideki Matsui swinging at a fastball to end the third. He struck out Flaherty and popped up Robinson Cano to end the fourth and got Tino Martinez to ground out to end the fifth.

In the past, he acknowledged, he struggled at times to work out of jams. But, the Red Sox' capable bats seem to have eased his mind and allowed him to use his darting repertoire with added confidence.

''I've never been around a group of guys that are as patient and powerful and take their at-bats as seriously as this team," Clement said.

Whenever Clement was mentioned last season, his lack of run support was, too. He received 17 runs of support yesterday, and in one stretch last season between mid-June and the end of July, he received a total of 18 runs in nine games.

''I know last year it seemed like every pitch was so important," he said. ''This team, it is, but last year, two runs vs. [John] Smoltz, that could have buried me."

Clement, at 6-0 with a 3.06 ERA, is now baseball's only undefeated pitcher with more than five wins. He has allowed three runs or fewer in nine of his 11 starts, and one run or fewer in five starts.

John Olerud, who hadn't played a real game since Game 7 of last year's American League Championship Series, played a solid if unspectacular first base and went 3 for 6 with three singles. He could have had another, except his foot, hamstring, and general lack of speed combined to get the best of him when he lined a ball off Pavano and was thrown out by Derek Jeter.

On this day, his bat simply blended in.

''It's cool," Clement said, ''how the guys have so much fun knowing not when it's time to flip the switch but when it's time to get it done."

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