BOSTON (AP) -- It's all tied up in the AL East.
The defending World Series champions and the sport's most
decorated franchise. Rivals from the playoffs for the past two
years, and from the regular season for a 100 years before that. Big
Papi and his baggy pants against clean-cut A-Rod in pinstripes.
Boston and New York.
Two games to play.
Jason Varitek homered, David Ortiz drove in another big run and
David Wells pitched seven strong innings on Friday night to give
the Red Sox a 5-3 victory and a first-place tie with the Yankees
heading into the season's final weekend.
"You never want to sigh too hard," Red Sox closer Mike Timlin
said. "It's going to be a tough two games.
Boston's win left both teams at 94-66 and guaranteed that at
least one team's playoff fate won't be decided until Sunday -- the
last day on the regular-season schedule.
"It was inevitable," New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez
said. "You knew in spring training when you saw these three games
it was going to come down to this."
The Red Sox and Yankees lead Cleveland by one game in the AL
wild-card race after the Indians lost 3-2 in 13 innings to the
Chicago White Sox.
If Boston and New York split the last two games and Cleveland
beats Chicago twice, there would be a one-game playoff Monday at
Yankee Stadium for the AL East title, with the loser playing the
Indians on Tuesday for the wild-card berth.
If Boston and New York are tied and Cleveland can't match them,
the Yankees would win the East and the Red Sox the wild card
because New York will have won the season series against Boston.
For now, the schedule has Tim Wakefield (16-11) facing Randy
Johnson (16-8) on Saturday, with Curt Schilling (7-8) going against
Mike Mussina (13-8) on Sunday.
"It's not like we can live it up and pound our chest," Boston
manager Terry Francona said. "We've got to come back and beat
maybe the best pitcher in the league."
Wells (15-7) won for the sixth time in seven decisions, the only
loss coming on Sept. 9 at Yankee Stadium. But returning to Fenway
Park -- a ballpark he once offered to blow up -- served the former
Yankee well; he allowed three runs, six hits and two walks,
striking out five and improved to 8-1 this year at home.
"I like the ball in a big game. I'm not afraid to take it," he
said. "At age 23 or 42, I still have the same intensity. I just
want to go out and pitch, and win."
Timlin got four outs for his 12th save in 19 chances. It was his
80th appearance of the season, a career-high that matched the
Rookie Chien-Ming Wang (8-5) gave up five runs -- just three
earned -- four hits and six walks. He struck out four in 6 2-3
"He had to have butterflies tonight. There's no question,"
manager Joe Torre said. "But I thought he dealt with it really
The voluble and voluminous Wells had demonstrated control this
year -- with his pitching, not with the mouth that earned him a
suspension and a dressing down from the commissioner's office. He
allowed just 19 walks in his first 29 starts, but started off on
Friday night with two walks and a hit batter, loading the bases
with one out in the first inning.
Still, the Yankees scored just once, when Hideki Matsui singled
to score Rodriguez, the Yankee's Most Valuable Player front-runner.
Jorge Posada struck out with the bases loaded and stranded six
runners in his first three at-bats.
Boston tied it when Johnny Damon walked to lead off the Boston
first, stole second and scored on Ortiz's single -- his major
league-leading 147th RBI. Varitek homered to lead off the second
and give Boston the lead for good.
The Red Sox added three in the sixth to make it 5-1.
Damon singled and stole second and, one out later, Ortiz was
intentionally walked -- giving some words of encouragement to Manny
Ramirez on deck. Ramirez singled, but too sharply for Damon to
score, and the bases were loaded when Wang forced in a run by
walking Trot Nixon.
"Walk a guy who knocked in 150 runs versus a guy who knocked in
140 runs," Torre said. "You can make that decision."
Varitek hit a grounder to first baseman Jason Giambi, whose
throw home was in the dirt and everyone was safe. John Olerud hit a
sacrifice fly to center field to score Ramirez, then Giambi made a
nice unassisted play on Bill Mueller's hard grounder to end the
Derek Jeter hit a two-run homer in the seventh, closing the
Yankees within two runs.
It's the closest race between the longtime rivals since 1978,
when Bucky Dent's popup over the Green Monster won a one-game
playoff and gave the division to the Yankees. They also faced each
other in the AL championship series in 1999 and each of the last
two years, with Boston finally breaking through in 2004 for its
first World Series title since 1918.
As if the series didn't offer enough drama, Rodriguez and Ortiz
entered as the AL's two leading MVP candidates. The hometown crowd
gives the edge to Big Papi and his penchant for game-saving hits --
like the ones that tied and then won the game on Thursday night
For New York, Rodriguez's Gold Glove-caliber defense is the
difference between two players with stellar but evenly matched
But Rodriguez let Damon's grounder go through his legs in the
third, amusing the hometown crowd that wanted him so badly two
winters ago. The buzz over A-Rod's blunder was still in the stands
when Ortiz came to the plate and spawned a new set of "MVP!"
But Wang stabbed Ortiz's one-hopper and threw to first, then
Damon oddly tried to take third base and was out in a rundown,
ending the inning.Boston had another runner thrown out on the bases
in the fourth when Nixon was caught stealing in an apparently
Yankees manager Joe Torre said a pitcher who throws
knuckleballs or slow pitches, whose name he didn't know, will throw
in batting practice before Wakefield, a knuckleballer, goes on
Saturday. ... Yankees LHP Alan Embree, signed July 30 after being
released by the Red Sox, said he has no hard feelings toward his
former team but doesn't know where he'll play next year. "This
year I'm nothing more than a two-month rental and next year will
take care of itself," he said. ... Varitek's solo homer in the
second inning was his 22nd of the season, his first since Aug. 23.
... Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, who played for Boston and New York,
was honored before the game. He wore a Red Sox jersey. ... Actor
Robert Redford was in the crowd.