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Buddy system for Sox

They pull it all together and push back Yankees

Manny Ramírez discards his bat and tracks his three-run home run off the Yankees' Mike Mussina in the first inning. Manny Ramírez discards his bat and tracks his three-run home run off the Yankees' Mike Mussina in the first inning. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS)

NEW YORK -- The other morning in the Red Sox clubhouse, Julian Tavarez was bouncing around in a "Manny Being Manny" T-shirt, the one that lists all of Ramírez's hitting feats. On his feet were a pair of new shower shoes featuring David Ortiz's smiling face on top.

"My best friend," Tavarez said, tugging at the T-shirt, then pointing at his shoes. "And my teammate."

Tavarez's buddy and his Big Papi both took care of the pitcher last night. Ramírez, who had gone the previous dozen games without a home run, sent a charge through the dugout when he connected for a three-run home run in the first inning. Ortiz, meanwhile, had three hits, scoring a run and knocking in another, as the Sox and Tavarez rolled over the Yankees, 7-3, before a crowd of 54,739 in a subdued Yankee Stadium.

"Good to see my man swinging the bat, man, so I won't have to be walking all the time," Ortiz said of Ramírez, whose seventh home run was the 26th of his career at Yankee Stadium, the most by any opposing player in the last 51 years. "Everybody's been swinging the bat pretty well, and having No. 24 doing it is a plus. I was going crazy, too. I said, 'At least I'm going to see some pitches tonight.' "

Kevin Youkilis had two more hits, scoring twice and driving in a run, to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, and Mike Lowell hit his ninth home run as the Sox had their way with Mike Mussina, who at 38 has been either hurt (hamstring) or horrid for most of the spring. The Sox, who restored their lead over the Yanks to 10 1/2 games in the American League East, scored seven runs on 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings against Mussina, whose earned run average rocketed to 6.52 as his record fell to 2-3.

"This was a big win for us today, man," said closer Jonathan Papelbon, who walked the first two batters in the ninth before setting down Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon, and Derek Jeter, Cabrera and Jeter on strikes. "We had to go at them with everything we got to bring it back to 10 1/2 games.

"We've got the big dog, Schill, going for us tomorrow. Hopefully, he's on his game. He loves pitching in big situations, and tomorrow is a big situation for us. Hopefully, he's got his 'A' game."

Roger Clemens will be pitching tonight when the Sox and Yanks meet in the rubber game of this three-game set, but the Rocket will be pitching in Trenton against Boston's Double A affiliate, Portland, and the Sea Dogs' ace, Clay Buchholz. Clemens's pal, Andy Pettitte, will face the Sox and Curt Schilling.

"That's pretty cool," manager Terry Francona said of Buchholz's date with the future Hall of Famer. "I'm sure that will be a very exciting night for him. Knowing Clay the little that I do, he'll be excited but very respectful of the whole idea. I hope he pitches better, too."

Tavarez has been friends with Ramirez since Ramirez played winter ball in the Dominican Republic 16 years ago, and Ramirez has been particularly keen in reciprocating this spring. Tavarez has made eight starts for the Sox; Ramirez has hit home runs in three of them, and knocked in 10 runs.

His home run last night followed singles by Youkilis and Ortiz, and his joy was evident as he practically sprinted around the bases and into the waiting arms of Ortiz and Lowell, who later doubled in the first and homered to lead off the the fourth, making the score 4-0.

"Manny's three-run bomb, that cheered me up so much," Tavarez said. "That's my boy right there. Lead, 3-0, attack, attack, attack those hitters, and it worked out."

Ortiz said he wasn't surprised that Ramirez produces when Tavarez pitches. "They're like brothers, man," he said. But Tavarez, who celebrated his 34th birthday last night, laughed when Ortiz suggested the two are practically rooming together.

"That's a joke," Tavarez said. "Manny's got a suite. I don't even know his name in the hotel. Like I don't know a lot of guys. They all have nicknames."

Tavarez did not allow a hit until Hideki Matsui's one-out single in the fourth. Jorge Posada, the league's leading hitter, singled with two out, sending Matsui to third, and a wild pitch brought Matsui home with the Yankees' first run.

The Yankees scored again in the fifth on Robinson Cano's double, two walks, and a force play, but Tavarez broke Matsui's bat, shortstop Julio Lugo flipping the ball to second for an inning-ending force.

There was more prime pointing by Tavarez in the sixth, when he walked Alex Rodriguez but got a double-play ball out of Posada. His night was done, Francona turning to the lefties in his bullpen, Javier Lopez and Hideki Okajima, to maintain a lead that grew to 7-2 when the Sox scored three times in the seventh.

That new component in the Sox repertoire, speed, played its part in the rally. Coco Crisp, on board after forcing Jason Varitek, stole second with two outs, his ninth stolen base in 10 tries. He then scored on a single by Lugo, whose 18 RBIs this month lead the team. Youkilis followed with an RBI gap double into right-center, finishing Mussina, and Ortiz singled off reliever Mike Myers for the seventh run.

Lopez, who has been terrific since his recall from Pawtucket May 11 (six scoreless appearances out of seven), set down all four batters he faced, striking out Bobby Abreu and pinch hitter Josh Phelps, before turning the game over to Okajima.

The Japanese lefthander, unscored upon in his previous 20 outings, finally was touched for a run in a shaky eighth, ending his scoreless streak at 20 2/3 innings. He loaded the bases on a single by Jeter, a walk to Matsui, and a four-pitch walk to A-Rod. Posada brought home a run by just beating out a DP relay from Dustin Pedroia, who afterward expressed mild annoyance at an elbow he took from Rodriguez breaking up the play, and Okajima retired Abreu on another grounder to end the inning.

"He's been phenomenal," Francona said, "but he's not going to be perfect all year, and he kept the damage to a minimum.

"We talk about scoring first, and then try to add on, so you have enough of a lead that if someone is struggling a little bit or makes a mistake, it doesn't cost us a ballgame."

Papelbon, who has had just one save opportunity since May 6 and was appearing for only the fourth time since then, walked Jason Giambi and Cano before squelching any hopes of a Yankee comeback, Jeter looking at a fastball that caught the outside corner for the final out.

"For me, it's not getting a consistent amount of work and being put in certain situations I'm not necessarily used to," Papelbon said. "For me, my mind-set doesn't change. I go out there and try to fill the zone up. Tonight I got a little too giddy."

Giddy gave way to gravity, and now the big dog awaits.