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He downplays idol worship

NEW YORK -- Josh Beckett wasn't in the mood to wax sentimental about Roger Clemens after Clemens outdueled him in the Yankees' 4-3 win over the Red Sox last night, dashing his hopes of becoming the major leagues' first 17-game winner.

"I wasn't facing him. My guys were facing him," said Beckett, who idolized his fellow Texan growing up.

The Sox ace allowed a career-high 13 hits (three of the infield variety), but some Yankees were shocked they had that many hits off a pitcher they respect as much as anyone in the league.

"Just to get three runs off him in the second inning was major for us," said left fielder Johnny Damon, whose two-run, bases-loaded single highlighted the inning. "He was real good. I just battled to get the count full. I was able to foul off a breaking pitch and then he threw me a fastball away which found a hole."

The game-winner -- Alex Rodriguez's 44th homer -- was struck well in the seventh inning. That gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead, which shrank to 4-3 on Kevin Youkilis's two-run homer in the eighth.

"I couldn't believe he gave up that many hits," said Rodriguez, who hit a Beckett curveball over the fence in left, his first career homer off Beckett. "He had a lot better stuff than the box score showed. You can never have enough runs against this team, so any time you can score, you have to do it. They're a great team. They're in first place for a reason."

Beckett was more concise when analyzing the game.

"It really only came down to one pitch," he said. "A stupid pitch in a stupid spot to a smart hitter."

While some could question the wisdom of having Beckett pitch the seventh, the righthander said he didn't want to come out even after surrendering the Rodriguez homer, but Terry Francona thought the time was right after 113 pitches. "That's not my job. It's his decision," Beckett said.

Beckett had been cruising for four innings until Rodriguez's blast.

Beckett, who hadn't lost in his previous four starts, hasn't been able to solve the Yankees. He's 3-3 with a 7.49 ERA in seven career starts against them. The 13 hits were the most surrendered by a Sox starter since Curt Schilling, today's starter, allowed 13 April 22, 2004, in Toronto.

On some nights, Beckett's effort would have yielded a win, but on this night, he ran up against the buzz saw of his boyhood idol, Clemens, arguably the best righthander in history, and Mariano Rivera, perhaps the greatest closer in history.

"When you can beat someone of that quality, you've got to be happy," Damon said of Beckett. "He's one of the best there is. Every at-bat against him is truly one of the hardest at-bats you'll have against anyone in the league."

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