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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Campaign gets a huge boost

Happy Days Are Here Again? On the eve of Boston's Democratic National Convention, with the home-grown nominee sitting in the front row by the Red Sox dugout -- on the heels of their dramatic brawl-inspired victory Saturday -- the Sox beat the Yankees, 9-6, in last night's nationally televised series finale.

Kevin Millar, who was getting run out of town less than a week ago, went 10 for 13 with four homers and eight RBIs in three games against New York. Oh, and if you're still scoring at home, there were three batters hit by pitches in the first two innings, prompting an official umpire's warning to both teams.

It was great follow-up theater for Red Sox Nation, almost enough to make folks forget about closed roadways and train stations for the next four days. The Red Sox officially put the region in a good mood by taking two out of three from the Yankees and creating the illusion of a pennant race in the American League East. Both the Sox and the Yanks got out of town after the game and as the Sox boarded their charter for Baltimore, the Sons of Tito were heard singing, "See You in September."

"I think you always build on a win," said Saturday's homer hero, Bill Mueller, as he packed for the 12-game trip. "You always build on a positive and this is a positive."

Nominee-to-be John Kerry (D-Mass.) arrived in time to throw out the first pitch and was booed as if he were wearing a Yankee jersey. Kerry threw from the grass in front of the mound (sorry, but President Bush fired a strike from the rubber before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series) and his errant throw to war hero Will Pumyea might have hit Alex Rodriguez if A-Rod had been standing in the righty batter's box. Still, Kerry had better stuff than Yankee starter Jose Contreras, who yielded six runs in the first two innings (come to think of it, as good as they are, the Yankees sure have some horsebleep pitchers).

The Henrytown seats were filled with Sox owners and political dignitaries. John Henry, Tom Werner (accompanied by Katie Couric), and Larry Lucchino surrounded Kerry, John Glenn (Ted Williams served as Glenn's wingman in Korea), Joe Biden, and Bob Kerrey. Would-be owner and Bush fan Joe O'Donnell sat in the front row to the left of the Kerry corner.

Along with the other 35,000, they were there to see the Red Sox play with some bounce in their step in the aftermath of Saturday's pulsating, brawl-inspired walkoff win over the Yanks. Unfortunately, the Red Sox in the top of the first inning played as if they'd been out all night partying with the Louisiana and Nevada delegations. Johnny Damon struggled with a couple of routine balls and Derek Lowe fell into a 2-0 hole.

It didn't help that two of the Sox regulars were injured and could not play. Catcher-leader Jason Varitek hurt his right wrist slamming his hand into A-Rod's face Saturday and Trot Nixon (disabled list) reinjured his quad, though he said it had nothing to do with piling on Tanyon Sturtze during the brawl.

But the Sox came back with two of their own in the bottom of the first on a two-run single by the suddenly white-hot Millar (for now the Red Sox' emergency backup catcher), and the rest of the night belonged to Boston.

Contreras hit Doug Mirabelli to open the second inning, but no one in the park thought it was intentional. Contreras was struggling just to stay in the game. After a single by Gabe Kapler, Damon clanged a three-run homer off Pesky's Pole. Mark Bellhorn followed with a homer to right to make it 6-2.

With one on and two out in the second, Millar hit a couple of foul home runs, then took a pitch between the numbers on his back. Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt warned both teams and Yankee manager Joe Torre came out to argue while fans chanted, "Yankees Suck."

Kerry did a live interview ("steroids are bad") with ESPN while the Yankees hit in the fifth, but eschewed the opportunity to tap the fertile mind of Sox starter Curt Schilling, a man with knowledge on everything from the single-payer health system to a repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act.

In the bottom of the inning, Millar drilled yet another shot off the Coke bottles to make it 7-2. It was Millar's fourth homer and ninth hit of the series. The Sox stretched the lead to 9-2 before Hideki Matsui's seventh-inning grand slam made everyone nervous, cutting the lead to 9-6.

The Yankee eighth was a classic. Derek Jeter got called out for failing to run outside the first base line, then Gary Sheffield hit a two-on, two-out rocket that Manny Ramirez gloved without even moving. It was on to "Sweet Caroline."

For the record, the nominee left after eight. He must have felt victory was secure. He lasted longer than Bill Belichick.

"This really felt like the playoffs," said Kapler. "It's a relief to have it done. Now we just have to keep it going."

All in all, a boffo night at the yard. Perfect weather. Perfect score. There was even a free fireworks display visible beyond the right-field grandstand just after Millar's second homer.

So whether you are running for president or running a sausage stand on Yawkey Way, it was not a bad night to be a resident of New England and a citizen of the Nation. Not a bad night to be a Sox fan at Fenway in the heart of the Back Bay. Not bad at all.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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