Sports shorts Sports shorts By Chas Walker

Red Sox and Yankees split series

Baseball fans got a close look at the race for the American League East pennant over the past several days, as the Boston Red Sox squared off with the New York Yankees in a four-game series. Boston began the series July 4, four games behind New York, and they hoped to pull even by the close of Monday’s game.

After the first two games, it seemed possible. In the first game, the Sox set off some 4th of July fireworks of their own, bashing seven homers – breaking the Yankees’ franchise record for home runs allowed and falling one short of their club record for home runs hit in a single game. They slammed the Yankees 10-3.

In the second game, even star pitcher Roger Clemens couldn’t escape Boston’s bats. The Sox stroked in eight runs before Clemens was yanked partway through the sixth inning. Meanwhile, on the mound for Boston, Ramiro Mendoza returned from the injured reserve to shut out the Yankees for five innings. Boston glided to another big victory, 10-2, and pulled within two games of the first-place Yankees.

But the next game of the series saw the Bronx Bombers bounce back, beating the Red Sox 7-1. Andy Pettitte pitched eight innings for the Yanks, and held Boston to one run. Boston’s John Burkett gave up two runs in the first, and the Yankees didn’t slow down for the Sox to catch up. Their lead grew as the game progressed – culminating in a big two-run triple by Alfonso Soriano in the seventh inning.

The fourth game, by contrast, brought a face-off of two of the best pitchers in baseball – Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox and Mike Mussina of the Yankees. The pitchers allowed one run each through the ninth inning, when closers were brought in to finish the deal. But in the bottom of the ninth, Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker mishandled a ground ball and let Yankee center-fielder Hideki Matsui slip home, lifting the Yanks to a 2-1 victory.

And the Sox fell back to where they began: trailing the Yankees by four games. The teams face each other again later this month – so get ready for more of the same drama.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org