Yankees 8, Red Sox 7

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BOSTON (AP)—After getting the go-ahead hit in the ninth inning Friday night, Alex Rodriguez thought back to April, when he went 1-for-17 in his first series at Fenway Park with the Yankees.

“It feels like it was five years ago,” he said.

New York’s early season struggles are a distant memory, and so is Boston’s April success. Even three homers by Kevin Millar couldn’t stop the Yankees from beating the Red Sox yet again.

After Millar tied the score in the eighth inning with his third solo home run, Rodriguez put New York back ahead with his third hit of the game. The Yankees’ 8-7 victory extended their lead to 9 1/2 games in an AL East race that increasingly appears to be over.

“I’m sure he wants to contribute, especially here,” Derek Jeter said. “The first time around was kind of tough.”

After losing six of seven games to the Red Sox in April, the Yankees have won four straight against their longtime rival, opening their largest margin since winning the division by 10 1/2 games in 2002. Boston has lost seven of 10.

“Every loss to me is huge,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “We’re just trying so desperately to get on the right track.”

New York, which acquired Rodriguez from Texas after a tentative trade between the Rangers and Red Sox fell through, overcame a 4-1, fifth-inning deficit against Curt Schilling. Boston had been 10-0 in Schilling’s Fenway starts.

Keith Foulke (2-3) retired his first batter in the ninth before allowing two straight drives off the left-field wall—a double by Gary Sheffield and the single by Rodriguez.

“I made a couple of pitches you shouldn’t make in this ballpark,” said Foulke, who has blown four of his last seven save chances. “You’ve got to take the wall out of play.”

Rodriguez knew his hit was over the head of Manny Ramirez, who was playing shallower than usual.

“I knew Manny was playing close because he wanted to get Sheffield out at the plate,” Rodriguez said.

Mariano Rivera then closed it out with a perfect bottom half for his AL-best 35th save in 36 chances, his 23rd in a row.

Millar homered in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings, the last one tying the score 7-all against Tom Gordon (3-3), who got the win.

“We were tenacious. We played with intensity,” Schilling said. “If we play like we played tonight, every night for the rest of the season, we’re going to go to the World Series.”

Millar has five homers in his last three games after hitting five in his first 85. His feat came exactly two years after the previous three-homer game at Fenway Park, by Nomar Garciaparra against Tampa Bay.

“That was big, especially tying the game off Tom Gordon, who’s as tough as there is right now out of the bullpen,” Millar said.

Millar became the first player to hit three homers in a game against the Yankees since Mo Vaughn on May 30, 1997. He is just the third player to hit three homers in a Red Sox-Yankees game, joining Vaughn and Lou Gehrig in 1927, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Jeter and Jason Giambi returned to the Yankees lineup after missing two games each. Jeter, who has a small break on his right hand after getting hit by a pitch Tuesday, went 0-for-5. Giambi, recovering from an intestinal parasite, was 0-for-3 and stretched his hitless streak to 21 at-bats.

Sheffield’s 20th homer put the Yankees ahead in the first, but Boston went ahead 3-1 in the third against Jon Lieber on Trot Nixon’s RBI double and Bill Mueller’s two-run shot.

After Millar’s first homer extended the lead to 4-1, Kenny Lofton hit an RBI single in the fifth, when the Yankees left the bases loaded.

Schilling couldn’t stop the Yankees in the sixth, when he allowed four singles and one walk while facing six batters.

Jorge Posada hit an RBI single, Ruben Sierra singled in a run on a high bouncer halfway down the first-base line and Lofton doubled in a run for a 5-4 lead. Bernie Williams then hit a two-run double off Mike Timlin.

Two more homers by Millar around Jason Varitek’s RBI double in the seventh tied the score.

Boston had a chance for bigger innings, but Ramirez grounded into a double play with runners at first and second in the seventh, and Varitek and David Ortiz struck out against Gordon, ending the eighth.

`I can’t say enough about Flash Gordon,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He just buckles down and gets two huge outs.”

Notes

The Yankees are 52-1 when leading after seven innings. … Sheffield hit his 399th homer, tying Detroit’s Al Kaline for 38th on the career list. … Johnny Damon ended an 0-for-18 slump with a single in the seventh.

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