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Parting sweet, not sorrowful

Rivals have had their fill so far

Josh Beckett left in the seventh with a lead, but the bullpen couldn't preserve his ninth win. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)

Sayonara, Yankees. See you in August.

Is anyone else pleased the Red Sox will be playing someone other than the New York Yankees for the next two-plus months?

The schedule has been rather excessive in that regard. Too many Red Sox-Yankees games too close together. Twelve games through June 3. Red Sox-Yankees overload, for sure. It's been pleasant for the Red Sox since they have amassed a 12 1/2-game lead over the Yankees to this point. But these matchups, other than the first couple and last night's (a 6-5 Sox loss), haven't been very compelling (the Red Sox won five of six in the first two series) given the number of games the Sox are up on the Yankees.

The story lines have dimmed as well.

There was great anticipation for Roger Clemens possibly starting at Fenway Park over the weekend, but the Yankees went the cautious route and made Clemens make a third rehab start. But in that start, last Monday for Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Clemens tweaked a groin muscle. He could start Saturday against Pittsburgh.

How many ways can Red Sox fans boo Alex Rodriguez? The blonde-wig masks worn by Sox fans Friday night to make fun of A-Rod's night on the town in Toronto were creative, but that lost its luster when the Red Sox lost, 9-5. And he certainly had the last laugh last night with his ninth-inning winning homer.

Sox fans missed out on a "Steroids! Steroids!" chant because Jason Giambi was back in New York on the disabled list with a foot injury that might keep him out for most of the season.

We've also had the "dirty plays" subject line. A-Rod was accused of that by second baseman Dustin Pedroia in New York a couple weeks back when he slid hard in an attempt to break up a double play and came up with his elbow. Then, Saturday, Mike Lowell, trying to disrupt a tag by second baseman Robinson Cano, pulled up a little and dug his shoulder into Cano's body. Cano charged "dirty play" after the game and said it was much dirtier than A-Rod's slide.

There was also Scott Proctor's high hard one that grazed Kevin Youkilis's helmet Friday, but that didn't muster much emotion. Even the league's disciplinary bosses felt Proctor's pitch wasn't deliberate and elected not to fine or suspend him.

David Ortiz, before the start of the series, said, "We're playing them again?"

"There have been a lot of games so early against them," Derek Jeter said. "I think the fans love these games, and as players they're fun once the game gets going. Sometimes the hype for them gets a little old, but I think the play on the field is intense and everyone wants to play their best."

Players love it when these series end and they don't have to deal with the media scrutiny.

It's particularly good for the Sox, who now escape west, where they will play the Oakland A's for four games followed by an interleague series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where the Drew brothers -- J.D. and Stephen -- will be reunited and where the Sox get to see their old assistant general manager, Josh Byrnes, who now runs the Diamondbacks.

The Sox might even face old nemesis Randy Johnson.

OK, those story lines pale by comparison to Sox-Yankees and the tales of A-Rod, Johnny Damon, and the rest, but it's a welcome change, right?

What these Sox-Yankees games have shown is that Boston has been able to dominate a team in distress, winning seven of 12.

By Aug. 28, the next time the Sox and Yankees reunite, we'll have a better understanding of how meaningful that series will be. The Sox could be out of reach by then, or if the Yankees have regrouped, they might be fighting for a wild card and it could whet our appetites once more for this never-ending soap opera.

Schedule-makers have it tough, but the quick hit early and then two-plus months off between the rivals appears extremely lopsided.

An intermittent sprinkling of Sox-Yankees is great, but too much, followed by too little, is frustrating. I'm sure by late July we'll be clamoring for another Sox-Yankees series after we've seen a bunch of teams nobody in Boston really cares about.

For now, though, it's great not to see the Yankees for a while. I think we all need a break.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at