NEW YORK -- It was Curt Schilling who dazzled after allowing three solo home runs in the first five innings to record his ninth win of the season.
It was Jason Varitek who slammed the game shut with a three-run homer in the seventh inning.
Red Sox will start lefthander Lester tomorrow vs. Rangers. C6
But where was last night's 9-3 Red Sox win over the Yankees really decided? Try an eight-pitch at-bat by No. 9 hitter Alex Gonzalez against Scott Proctor in the sixth.
Say what you want about Gonzalez (who is hitting .225) being the weak link in the Sox' lineup, but when you add what he does on defense to the at-bat that culminated in a double over Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's glove to drive in the go-ahead run, Gonzalez's contributions left the personable shortstop with a smile.
``It changed the game," acknowledged Gonzalez. ``In a close game like that, you like to have those at-bats where you keep after [the pitcher] and see what happens. I know I can hit. Everybody wants to hit. When you can keep at it and you can get a double and drive in a run, that's what you're looking to do."
Gonzalez went 2 for 5, marking just his third multihit game against righthanded pitching this season, against which he's hitting .192. But seven of his 17 RBIs have tied the game or given the Sox the lead, and last night's was his fourth game-winning RBI.
Schilling had trailed, 3-1, but in notching his American League-leading ninth win, he made sure not to surrender the advantage after Gonzalez put the Sox up, 4-3. He retired the top of the Yankees' lineup in order in the bottom of the sixth, striking out Jason Giambi swinging to end the inning.
The win allowed the Sox to salvage one game of this abbreviated three-game series, moving them within a half-game of New York heading into this weekend's four-game set against the Texas Rangers at Fenway.
The only possible down note came in the seventh when Kevin Youkilis was hit off the left elbow by a Scott Erickson fastball after being hit on the same arm Sunday in Detroit. Youkilis said after the game he should be all right because he was able to apply ice when he exited in the eighth inning, replaced at first base by J.T. Snow.
Schilling went eight innings on a night when the Sox desperately needed their starter to go deep to preserve a bullpen that could be taxed over a weekend that includes a doubleheader and a rookie (Jon Lester) making his major league debut.
``I could have gone the whole game if Tito [Francona] wanted me to, but it seemed as though they wanted Jonathan Papelbon to get some work, and that always supersedes it," said Schilling. ``But I was prepared to go all the way in that one."
Gonzalez was down, 0 and 2, after a swinging strike and a foul tip, before fouling off three more pitches, taking a ball, fouling off another pitch, and then stroking a hard grounder down the third base line that Rodriguez tried to backhand. The ball hopped over his glove, much to the dismay of the 55,225 on hand. At first it was ruled an error, but the scorer made a change, rewarding Gonzalez with a hit and an RBI.
Ahead, 4-3, in the seventh, the Sox got some insurance when Varitek turned on a 2-and-0 pitch from Proctor.
``I rushed a little bit," said Proctor. ``I got under the ball and didn't keep it down. It's a learning experience for me. But it cost us a game. This is a tough one for me."
It was a big hit and a big night for Varitek (3 for 5, four RBIs), who had been in an 0-for-10 drought (with three double-play grounders) before a sixth-inning single that knocked in the Sox' second run. Varitek entered the game 21st this season in batting average (.236) among the 26 catchers with 100 or more at-bats.
``It was great to see Tek get going," said Youkilis. ``He's one of our best hitters. We all knew it was coming. You can have two bad months in this game and then you can get hot. When he's hot, you don't want to face him when you're a pitcher."
Coco Crisp, who had two hits, drove in a pair of runs with a seventh-inning single, upping the Sox' advantage to 9-3.
``It was just great to win this game and go home on a positive note," Crisp said. ``The way Curt was throwing the ball, it was great to get him some run support."
Schilling gave up the first of the three homers he allowed to former teammate Johnny Damon, who always had a knack for setting the tone. This one hit the top of the foul pole in right field to lead off the Yankees' first, his eighth home run of the season extending his hitting streak to nine games and tying the game, 1-1.
The Sox had drawn first blood against righthander Jaret Wright (who had beaten Boston, May 23) when they collected three singles, including an RBI base hit by Manny Ramírez.
Schilling allowed his 12th home run of the season on a 2-and-0 slider to Bernie Williams with two outs in the second inning, a line drive that carried over the wall in right-center.
Schilling, who threw 96 pitches, seemed to be suffering from early location problems as Damon reached a second time with a one-out double to right-center in the third inning, but eliminated himself when he strayed too far off second on Melky Cabrera's fly to center and couldn't get back to the bag in time. Damon got up and hit himself in the head with his hand, disgusted by his blunder.
The Sox squandered scoring chances in the fourth and fifth, and after Schilling allowed his sixth homer to a sixth different Yankee this season (Robinson Cano) in the fifth, they pounced on Wright, who hasn't pitched beyond the sixth inning this season.
Wright went 1 and 2 on Ramírez before losing him to a walk to lead off the sixth. That was followed by a single to right by Trot Nixon, an RBI single to left by Varitek, and Mike Lowell being hit by a pitch. Yankees manager Joe Torre had seen enough. With the bases loaded and nobody out, he summoned Proctor for the 29th time this season.
After a sacrifice fly by Youkilis tied the game, Gonzalez fought and won the battle with Proctor. And from there, Schilling shut the Yankees down until the ninth, when Papelbon finished it.