Damon, A-Rod lead Yankees past Red Sox

BOSTON (AP) -- The last time Johnny Damon homered to lead off the top of the first inning, he was helping the Red Sox clinch a championship.

On Tuesday night, he did it against Boston, sending the New York Yankees on their way to a 7-5 victory.

"I've hit some home runs in this park," he said nonchalantly. "Plan to hit more in the future."

Damon has 17 leadoff homers in his career, his most recent coming last Aug. 29 for the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The last time he hit one on the road -- as the first batter in the game -- was in St. Louis for Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, which Boston won to end its 86-year title drought.

"Johnny is that kind of player. We've seen it against us so many times," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He's a terrific presence in our dugout and our clubhouse. Not [just] on the home run, but he put us in position to score more runs, too."

Damon poked one around Pesky's Pole in the first to stake Jaret Wright (2-3) to an early lead, and Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run shot to put the Yankees ahead 7-1 and chase Tim Wakefield (3-6). Manny Ramirez hit a three-run homer for Boston to narrow the gap before Mariano Rivera got five outs for his ninth save.

Wright pitched five shutout innings, allowing four hits and leaving with a 3-0 lead when he tweaked his groin on a grounder back to the mound.

"He wasn't asking to go back out there, he was demanding to go out there ... We just basically shut him down," Torre said. "We're hopeful that he won't miss any starts or anything."

Wakefield gave up six earned runs on six hits and five walks, striking out five in 6 2/3 innings. The Yankees scored an unearned run in the sixth when Doug Mirabelli had three passed balls that allowed Rodriguez to reach base, take second and, after advancing to third on a fielder's choice, score.

"It's a double-edged sword," said Mirabelli, Wakefield's personal catcher last year who was reacquired this month after Josh Bard was unable to catch the knuckleball. "When he has a really, really good knuckleball they can't hit it. But I still have to catch it."

Wakefield threw 10 consecutive balls in the seventh, walking Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield with two outs before Rodriguez put one over the Green Monster. Activated from the disabled list before the game, Sheffield went 0-for-3 with two walks, striking out in the ninth with huge hacks, but little timing.

"Even if he goes 0-for-50, his presence is so important for our team," Rodriguez said. "He swings the bat with such aggression."

It was 7-4 when Kyle Farnsworth walked consecutive batters with one out in the eighth. Rivera got David Ortiz to pop up behind second base before Ramirez singled in one run to make it 7-5.

Trot Nixon fouled out to third base to end the inning. Rivera finished for New York's second victory in six games.

The Yankees are 2-4 against Boston this year, and Wright hadn't had much success against the Red Sox, either, going 1-3 with a 7.30 ERA in nine career starts against them. But on Tuesday night he twice pitched out of jams with a runner on third.

Boston went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13.

Scott Proctor gave up Mirabelli's RBI single in the sixth and then walked two in the seventh before Ramirez, for the second night in a row, homered deep into the center-field bleachers. It was his 44th career homer against the Yankees, tying him with Rocky Colavito for ninth on the all-time list.

Game notes
Torre earned his 1,901st victory, tying Gene Mauch for 11th on the career list. ... To make room for Sheffield, the Yankees designated RHP Colter Bean for assignment. Bean appeared in two games, pitched two innings and had a 9.00 ERA. ... 1B Kevin Youkilis made Boston's first out of the game on a liner back to the
mound that Wright caught in his gut. ... Boston OF Wily Mo Pena
missed his second consecutive game with a sore wrist. ... Red Sox CF Coco Crisp will work out with the team on Wednesday, then go to Florida to play two games to rehab his broken left index finger. He
is then scheduled to play for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.