A-Rod, Yankees fizzle; Bailey, Red Sox sizzle

NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez, who has been here before, flopped miserably, the boos so loud by the end of the night that Tiger Woods, whose departure from his home-plate seats caused a commotion, didn't stick around to see A-Rod tack a final K on a night that went K, GIDP, 8, GIDP, K – and for good measure, E-5.

"For me personally, it was a long night,'' Rodriguez said after the New York Yankees' 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night, "and I pretty much screwed it up any way you can screw it up.''

Meanwhile, Red Sox rookie first baseman Jeff Bailey ("I think that's his name,'' Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte said) had a night so special he decided that when he called his good buddy and long-time Yankees fan Cody Gallagher in Kelso, Wash., after he got back to the team hotel, he wouldn't rub it in.

"First of all,'' Bailey said, "he's going to be pretty excited for me. And I got to give him this. He plays fantasy baseball, and I was in his lineup today. He's probably the only guy in fantasy baseball anywhere who actually played me.

"But I'll probably say something like, 'We got your Yankees tonight.' ''

Rodriguez is a three-time American League MVP, who, in the words of teammate Johnny Damon, "expects to be the greatest player ever.'' He is paid in the neighborhood of $30 million this season, and when he doesn't produce with the Yankees' faint postseason hopes on the line, he hears about it.

"Oh yeah,'' he said, when asked if he heard the wrath of 55,058 at Yankee Stadium directed at him after he rolled into a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play against rookie reliever Justin Masterson in the seventh.

"They're loud. I killed the rally. No one is more frustrated than me. Everyone is desperate for wins. On a night like tonight, I was booing myself.''

Bailey is a minor-league lifer whose first big-league call-up came last year, during his 11th season in the minors. His grandfather worked in the Weyerhauser paper mills. So did his dad, Dan, for 37 years, driving a forklift and toting huge paper rolls across the factory floor.

Bailey's call-up last July lasted three games. He hit a home run in Detroit, then was sent back down. With the Red Sox running out of healthy bodies – Mike Lowell is on the DL with a strained oblique muscle, J.D. Drew went on the DL Tuesday with a herniated disk in his back, Sean Casey has a stiff neck – Boston GM Theo Epstein sent out another summons for Bailey on Aug. 14. Until Tuesday night, he'd had just nine at-bats, but he was making his pro-rated share of the $370,000 big-league minimum.

Before the game, Bailey, a one-time Marlins prospect whose catching career detoured after he tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, learned he'd been named MVP of the International League.

"Pretty nice,'' he said, "though I thought I've had better years. Maybe it was a down year in the International League.''

Bailey, wearing No. 55, batted eighth. In the second inning, he topped a two-out roller down the third-base line, hit too softly for Rodriguez to make a play. The Sox turned that single into a run, as Kevin Cash beat out another slow roller that Rodriguez couldn't pick up cleanly, and Jacoby Ellsbury brought home Bailey with a base hit.

But it was in the fifth inning that Bailey had his biggest hit, a scorched grounder down the third-base line that hit the bag. Rodriguez reacted to the crazy carom and gloved the ball, but threw too late. One run scored and Coco Crisp never stopped running from second as Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi inexplicably held onto the ball.

The Yankees, despite two home runs by Damon, trailed 6-3. Pettitte, the big-game pitcher who was supposed to set the tone for the series, was walking off the mound.

"I threw a good changeup in a good count to Bailey – I think his name is Bailey – and he rolled it right down the line and off the bag,'' said Pettitte, uncertain of the identity of the perpetrator.

Bailey chuckled when told of Pettitte's hesitation.

"Oh, that's expected,'' he said. "He doesn't know me. It's obvious. My first two at-bats, he was throwing all fastballs and it was working. He was throwing me in, in, in.

"I'm just thankful he threw me a changeup there."

His timing could not have been better for the Red Sox, who now have a six-game lead over the Yankees in the wild-card race with 31 games to play, and picked up a game in the AL East on Tampa Bay, the Rays leading by 3½.

After finishing this set, the Red Sox play 20 of their last 29 games at home, and Friday night they get back Josh Beckett, who threw a side session before the game. Beckett threw 50 pitches and according to manager Terry Francona experienced none of the numbness and tingling that was traced to inflammation in his elbow. The Sox also were putting the finishing touches on a trade with Atlanta for outfielder Mark Kotsay, who gives them insurance if Drew can't recover from the back miseries that have sidelined him since Aug. 17.

The Yankees, meanwhile, will run out Sidney Ponson on Wednesday night. Ponson is 3-12 with a 6.92 ERA against the Red Sox. Of the Yankees' remaining 31 games, 24 are against teams currently at .500 or above, and 16 are on the road.

"Tomorrow can't come fast enough,'' Rodriguez said.

For Bailey, meanwhile, the night could last a lifetime.

"This gives me something,'' he said, "I'll remember for the rest of my life.

"I'm just wishing my family wasn't watching the game. Then I could tell them that I had two line-drive hits.''