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Wrong turns

Johnson is shaky, but Clement is worse for Red Sox as Yankees take finale

A pitching duel this was not, despite the fact that the two men who started last night are making a combined $25.5 million this season ($9.825 million of that going to Matt Clement). Of course, those aren't the only big numbers associated with Clement and Randy Johnson these days. Both entered with obese ERAs -- Clement at 5.36, Johnson at 5.62 -- and both struggled, lasting a combined 9 1/3 innings and allowing a combined 13 runs on 18 hits. But Johnson struggled less and with that came a W, in an eventful but not particularly well-played 8-6 Red Sox loss before 36,375, many of whom blessed Clement's departure in a loud and unmistakable manner.

``I gave up eight runs, they paid to see us win, I should get booed," said Clement, who in 23 starts since pitching in last year's All-Star Game, his postseason appearance included, is 7-8 with a 6.01 ERA.

The Yankees took two of three but the Sox, who lost their first home series since the home-opening set vs. Toronto April 11-13, remain ahead in the season series, 4-3, with 12 meetings to come.

The last time the Sox had played New York, in the Bronx earlier this month, they juggled the rotation, skipping Clement, fearful of what played out last night. He faced 27 batters and got just 13 outs, allowing 14 base runners (nine hits, four walks, one hit batsman). He actually recorded five consecutive outs to begin the game, meaning that 14 of the final 22 batters he faced reached. By night's end, he'd allowed eight earned runs, swelling his season ERA to 6.31 with a 4-4 record.

Bear in mind, this was a Yankee lineup with Melky Cabrera hitting leadoff, Terrence Long hitting eighth, and Kelly Stinnett batting ninth, three players who entered the game with combined 2006 totals of 19 hits in 83 at-bats (.229) with no home runs and seven RBIs.

Clement was staked to a 2-0 lead after one inning on Manny Ramírez's 10th homer, a staggering shot to left in the general direction of MIT's Great Dome. Ramírez, who a night earlier stood and watched his prodigious homer as if he were waiting for the No. 57 bus to pick him up in Kenmore Square, quickly recoiled his bat, tossed it gently to the ground, and, relatively speaking, tore around the base paths. He was, for a moment, all class, a night after acting like a kid at recess.

In the top of the second, Clement recorded two outs on four pitches before six consecutive Yankees reached in what would be a four-run, 32-pitch inning. Robinson Cano walked. Bernie Williams then lined an 0-and-1 pitch off Clement's right ankle. In his most recent start, Clement had to duck out of the way of a Bobby Abreu liner. Last year, of course, a Carl Crawford liner caught him on the side of the head. Sox coaches and a trainer visited the mound, marking one of five visits made by Terry Francona and/or Al Nipper to see Clement (two for potential injuries, two to calm him down, one to lift him).

Where did it hit Clement?

``Right above the ankle bone on the right leg," he said. Clement didn't feel he needed to come out at the time, though he later remarked, ``Obviously, now, yeah, it would have been a great idea."

``You can't use it as a reason why I pitched badly," he said, before walking out of the park with a noticeable limp. ``But it didn't help the cause."

Clement walked the next batter, Long, after going to a full count. With Stinnett up, Clement hit him on the left arm with a 2-and-2 slider, forcing in a run. Cabrera then singled through the right side, scoring two for a 3-2 Yankees lead. Derek Jeter, quickly behind, 0 and 2, roped a ball off the wall in left-center, scoring Stinnett for a 4-2 lead. Clement got the ninth hitter of the inning, Gary Sheffield, to ground out, then whacked his hat on his leg and walked to the dugout.

Still, the Sox responded, scoring two in the bottom of the second to tie it and one in the third. In the second, Johnson fanned Wily Mo Peña and Dustan Mohr, but with two outs Alex Gonzalez sent a bat-splintering single to right.

Kevin Youkilis, up next, worked Johnson (4-3, 7.65 ERA in his last eight starts) to a full count and got a lingering slider at 84 miles per hour. He turned on it for a two-run shot and a tie game. The homer gave him four runs scored in his last four plate appearances dating to Tuesday night. Mark Loretta then singled, and Johnson, by this point, was talking to himself. Fans began chanting ``Randy, Randy."

``Good, bad, good, bad, he hung in there," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Johnson. ``He used up a lot early. He looked like he was defensive with Manny, which, I mean, for good reason."

In the third, the Sox continued pounding Johnson, beginning the inning with three consecutive hits (Ramírez double, Jason Varitek RBI single, Mike Lowell single). With that Johnson had allowed 10 base runners and recorded just six outs. Varitek's single came on 0 and 2 and didn't appear to be hit in a place that would score Ramírez. At least that was the view held by third base coach DeMarlo Hale, who put up the stop sign. Ramírez blithely ran through it and nearly ran through Hale, too.

Hale was positioned halfway down the baseline and Ramírez, lumbering by him, actually ducked to avoid Hale's outstretched right arm. He managed to score without a play, as Jason Giambi cut Cabrera's throw.

The Yankees, though, took a sizable lead in the fifth, with another four-run inning. Alex Rodriguez began by singling to right. Cano then singled to center, after which Williams lined an RBI single up the middle.

Clement's next pitch was lined by Long to right for an RBI single, marking the fourth hit off Clement in as many pitches. Clement fanned Stinnett but Francona had seen enough. He lifted Clement for Julian Tavarez, who allowed a two-run single by Cabrera, who knocked in four runs playing in place of Johnny Damon, given a day off to rest his ailing right big toe. That made it Yankees 8, Sox 4.

``Felt like I took some steps forward and all of a sudden I took a lot of steps back," Clement said.

Ramírez, though, came to bat in the seventh against Scott Proctor, off whom he'd hit that much-talked-about homer a night earlier. He turned on the first pitch he saw, hammering it over the Sports Authority sign and onto Lansdowne.

That gave him 11 homers on the year and four in the last three nights vs. the Yankees. By night's end, he'd be 8 for 12 with four homers and 10 RBIs in the series, following a series in Philadelphia in which he went 1 for 11 and looked listless.

``He's as hot as I've ever seen him," Torre said, ``and he's certainly capable."

But, on this night, he was that much more capable than those around him, including the usually clutch guy who hits ahead of him. David Ortiz had a chance to tie or win this game, with the bases loaded and two outs against Kyle Farnsworth with the Sox behind, 8-6, in the eighth.

Farnsworth had loaded the bases by walking Loretta and got ahead of Ortiz, 1 and 2, working at 97-98 m.p.h. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat he unleashed a slider in the mid-80s that Ortiz looked at for a called third strike and his fourth K of the night, setting a high in his Red Sox career.

``Both [Manny] and Ortiz are so imposing," Torre said, ``but Farnsworth, he kept it together and made a hell of a pitch."

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