Mueller and Co. shell Contreras et al.


BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Bombers answered every threat by their
struggling rivals from The Bronx.

Now, baseball's best hitting team must do it again and again.

Bill Mueller, David Ortiz and Nomar Garciaparra homered as the Red Sox rallied from two deficits to beat New York 10-5 Friday night in the opener of a three-game series and cut the Yankees' AL East lead to 3½ games.

To Mueller, who leads the AL with a .330 batting average, the
opponent meant little.

"It's not a matter of who you're playing, it's a matter of how
hard we've worked," said Mueller, who went 3-for-5 with four RBI.
"We can't control what other people are doing."

Besides, as New York's Derek Jeter pointed out, "we're in first
place. I'm sure Boston would like to be in first place."

Boston, which leads the majors with a .292 batting average,
roughed up Jose Contreras and responded immediately to New York's
two big innings.

The Red Sox scored three runs in the bottom of the first after
the Yankees got two in the top half. In the fourth, Boston scored
four to go ahead 7-5 after New York scored three.

"That was huge on our offensive part, and we were able to keep
going," Boston's Jason Varitek said.

The Red Sox had 14 hits, their ninth straight game with at least
10, and they did it without leading home run hitter Manny Ramirez, who was sidelined with a high fever. He has played in 131 of
Boston's 134 games.

All that offense made a winner of Derek Lowe (14-6), who lasted
six innings. Pedro Martinez (10-3) pitches for Boston against Andy Pettitte (16-7) in a marquee matchup Saturday.

Since trailing the Yankees by 7½ games Aug. 20, the Red Sox
have gone 7-1 against Oakland, Seattle, Toronto and New York to cut
four games off that lead.

"We knew this was going to be a tough stretch," Lowe said.
"It shows we can play well against the top teams."

Those eight games were at Fenway Park, where Boston is hitting
.325, the best home average in the majors.

That followed a 4-9 stretch in which Boston averaged 3.7 runs
per game.

"I told everyone don't give up on us," Ortiz said.

New York lost for the third time in four games.

In their last four games, the Yankees have allowed at least 10
runs three times and have been outscored 39-16. The first three games
were at home against the Chicago White Sox, but the Yankees, whose
42-24 road record is the best in the majors, fared no better at
Fenway Park.

They managed just six hits Friday, one in the last four innings.

"With the guys we've got, we could turn it around" Saturday,
New York's Jorge Posada said. "You can't fall behind against the
Red Sox and try to catch up."

Lowe had just two tough innings and was replaced by Mike Timlin
with Boston leading 10-5 after the sixth.

Timlin, Scott Sauerbeck and Scott Williamson pitched a
scoreless inning of relief apiece.

In the first, Jeter got a one-out double, Jason Giambi walked
and Hideki Matsui doubled both home.

But Contreras (4-2) lost the lead in the first on a walk to Todd Walker, a single by Garciaparra, an RBI single by Ortiz and a
two-run double by Mueller.

"He was just guiding the ball a little bit," Yankees manager
Joe Torre said. "He just had trouble getting ahead in the count."

Lowe retired seven straight batters, all on grounders, before
Bernie Williams led off the fourth with a double. Matsui walked,
Posada grounded into a forceout and Nick Johnson was hit by a
pitch, loading the bases. Aaron Boone cleared the bases with a
double, putting New York ahead 5-3.

Contreras also retired seven in a row, four on strikeouts,
before allowing a leadoff single to Trot Nixon in the fourth.
Mueller then hit his 17th homer, tying the score 5-5. Jason Varitek
walked and scored on Gabe Kapler's tiebreaking double.

Jeff Weaver replaced Contreras and gave up Johnny Damon's
sacrifice fly, making it 7-5.

The Red Sox built the lead to 10-5 on Ortiz's 22nd homer of the
season, a solo shot in the fifth, and Garciaparra's two-run homer,
his 23rd, in the sixth.

"We certainly know coming in here what they're capable of
doing," Torre said. "They were very patient at the plate."

Contreras allowed seven runs, six hits and three walks in
three-plus innings. He struck out six.

Game notes
When Timlin walked Jeter in the seventh, it broke the
right-hander's streak of 24 outings without a base on balls. He had
23 strikeouts in that stretch. ... Ortiz homered for his fifth
straight start and sixth in his last seven. ... Tiger Woods,
playing at the Deutsche Bank Championship in nearby Norton,
attended the game.