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Nasty changeup

Igawa steps in for Karstens in first, defeats Red Sox

NEW YORK -- When Daisuke Matsuzaka arrived at Yankee Stadium before his start Friday, he was stopped twice by security guards who evidently didn't recognize him.

The way things have been going for Kei Igawa, the Yankees' $46 million Japanese investment, security might have detained him, too, but for a different reason -- they knew exactly who he was.

But yesterday at the Stadium, it was Igawa who came to the rescue of the tottering Yankees and helped end a seven-game New York losing streak, 3-1, on a day the Bombers essentially had told him they didn't want him to pitch.

Demoted to the bullpen when he was on track to face the Sox yesterday, Igawa surfaced just two batters into the game, after rookie starter Jeff Karstens took Julio Lugo's line drive off the knee on the game's first pitch and departed when Kevin Youkilis followed with another base hit. Karstens has a cracked fibula, Yankees manager Joe Torre said after the game.

In came Igawa and his 7.84 ERA to face Sox strongman David Ortiz. Reporters for the New York tabloids, anticipating another Bomber meltdown, had George Steinbrenner on speed dial.

But Igawa coaxed a double-play ground ball out of Ortiz, the first of two by Ortiz on the afternoon, and after walking Manny Ramírez, he struck out J.D. Drew with the bases loaded. Disaster averted.

"We were glad to get Karstens out of the game," said Youkilis, who was unaware of the severity of Karstens's injury. "We didn't think Igawa would come in and pitch great."

Igawa gave up just two hits until being lifted with two on and no out in the seventh, and the overworked Yankee bullpen did not self-immolate, which it had been doing with regularity.

Closer Mariano Rivera reclaimed some of his tattered dignity by earning the save in the ninth, his first of the season, though not without some anxiety.

Jason Varitek opened the ninth with a broken-bat single to right. Rivera, whose ERA had shot up to 12.15 after a hideous outing the night before, fielded Alex Cora's comebacker and forced Varitek at second. Then third baseman Alex Rodriguez made a tough play on Lugo's slow roller, barehanding the ball and throwing him out. Youkilis popped to second to end it.

"You guys were worried about Mariano Rivera?" Youkilis said sarcastically. "He throws a 94-mile-an-hour cutter. We hit him, he's throwing like crap. When we don't, he's great. The hitters never get any credit.

"He's still one of the best closers in the game. You guys can't count him out."

The Sox were unable to overcome the three runs the Yanks scored off Tim Wakefield on Jorge Posada's two-run home run in the fourth and Melky Cabrera's bloop ground-rule double in the sixth. In both instances, the hit scored runners who reached on walks.

Wakefield lasted just 5 1/3 innings, six walks driving his pitch count to 118. It was the third time in his career Wakefield has walked six or more; all three starts have come against the Bombers.

"Didn't have my best knuckleball," Wakefield said. "The pitch Posada hit the home run, it was so far inside, Dougie [Mirabelli] was diving for it, it was almost behind him. I'm surprised he didn't hook it foul. It stayed fair and cost us the game. The bloop double? Sometimes they get lucky."

This time, it wasn't the Yankee bullpen but Sox center fielder Coco Crisp who snapped, erupting after being called out on strikes by umpire Bruce Froemming with the tying runs on base in the eighth. Froemming thought Kyle Farnsworth's two-seam fastball caught the outside corner; Crisp disagreed, flinging his bat, helmet, and do- rag, which earned him a seat for the rest of the afternoon.

"It was frustration," manager Terry Francona said. "I'd have been frustrated, too. Ninety-seven [miles an hour] with movement, off the plate."

Youkilis opened the eighth with a single and Ortiz, who grounded into his two DPs against Igawa, walked. Ramírez looked at a third strike for the first out and Drew, 5 for 8 with three home runs against Farnsworth entering the game, rolled into a force play.

But Mike Lowell, who earlier had extended his hitting streak to 14 games, lined a single to right to score Youkilis, making it 3-1.

After Lowell reached on Rodriguez's error and Crisp singled in the seventh, Brian Bruney picked up Igawa by striking out Mirabelli, retiring pinch hitter Eric Hinske on a foul to third, and inducing Lugo to ground into a force play.

"You know what you're saying? You're saying, 'Well, it's not over yet,' " Torre said.

"Eventually this is going to improve and get better. As long as your players don't just phone it in, which that's not going to happen here, you say, 'Well, I guess it's not time yet.' Got to keep your sanity that way. If you start 'woe is me' stuff, that message is going to get across to the players."