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Fan interferes as Sheffield tries to field 2-run triple

BOSTON (AP) -- Gary Sheffield kept his cool just as another
confrontation between Fenway Park fans and the New York Yankees was
heating up.

Sheffield was fielding Jason Varitek's two-run triple along the
low right-field fence in the eighth inning of Boston's 8-5 victory
Thursday night when a fan swung a short uppercut in his direction,
appearing to graze the side of the slugger's face with his right
arm.

"Something hit me in the mouth. It felt like a hand,"
Sheffield said. "I thought my lip was busted."

After Sheffield picked up the ball, he shoved the fan before
throwing the ball back to the infield as two runs scored. Another
fan's beer also sprayed in Sheffield's direction.

"I tried to get his hand out of my face so I could continue on
with the play," he said. "To get punched in the mouth, you don't
expect that in a baseball game."

Sheffield then whirled around with a cocked fist, shouting in
the face of the first man -- but restrained himself and did not
throw a punch. A security official quickly jumped over the
three-foot wall to separate the two.

"It could have been worse if I didn't hold my composure,"
Sheffield said. "I almost snapped, but I thought about the
consequences."

The fan was ejected from the ballpark but not arrested.

"I guess there's always one idiot in the stands," New York
captain Derek Jeter said.

Fenway hasn't been a friendly place for Boston's chief rival.
The fans boo Alex Rodriguez, razz Jason Giambi about steroids and
generally make life unpleasant for the Yankees.

"People here yell at you and throw things at you, all kinds of
things all game long," center fielder Bernie Williams said. "But
what that guy did was different, totally unexpected. It was
dangerous and something should be done about it."

During the 2003 AL playoffs, two Yankees players got into a
brawl with a Red Sox groundskeeper in New York's bullpen.

Relief pitcher Jeff Nelson and outfielder Karim Garcia were
charged with assault but agreed to a deal last October that called
for the charges against them to be dropped in six months.

"We have two great teams and two great baseball cities and a
lot of emotion," Boston manager Terry Francona said.

The near-fight between Sheffield and the Boston fan Thursday
night was the latest problem between fans and players at a sporting
event.

On Nov. 19, players and fans exchanged punches in the stands
near the end of a Pacers-Pistons game in one of the worst brawls in
NBA history. The mayhem left several people injured and prompted a
police investigation.

Last September, the Texas Rangers got into a fight with fans in
Oakland, and Rangers reliever Frank Francisco was arrested after
throwing a chair into the stands that hit a woman and broke her
nose.

And on Sept. 28, Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley was ejected
after he slammed a plastic bottle down in the front row of the
right-field seats after a fan threw the bottle onto the field. He
was suspended for the rest of the regular season.

Edgar Renteria's RBI double in the eighth broke a 5-5 tie, and
Boston took two of three from the Yankees to even the season series
at three games apiece.

Randy Johnson gave up three homers for only the 12th time in his
career, and Francona and Red Sox hitting coach Ron Jackson were
ejected after questioning calls by plate umpire Greg Gibson.

Johnson left with the score 5-5 after seven innings and Tom
Gordon (0-1) fell behind before getting an out. Johnny Damon led
off the eighth with a single and scored on a double by Renteria,
who had made the last out for St. Louis in Boston's sweep of last
year's World Series.

"We have to give Sheffield a lot of credit," Damon said, "for
him to restrain himself the way he did."

After an intentional walk to David Ortiz, Varitek hit a ball
down the right-field line that hugged the curved wall and led to
all the trouble.

Varitek's two-run triple gave the Red Sox an 8-5 lead.

Sheffield led off the ninth with a double off the Green Monster
and the Yankees loaded the bases before Keith Foulke (1-1) ended
the game by getting Ruben Sierra to foul out to catcher Varitek,
who made a nice catch on a difficult play near the stands.

Renteria, Jay Payton and Varitek all homered in the first four
innings off Johnson.

"I didn't settle in until after," said Johnson, who allowed
five hits.

Hideki Matsui drove in three runs for the Yankees with a single
and a double as the teams wrapped up a nine-game stretch in which
they faced each other six times.

The last time Johnson allowed three homers was Aug. 15 against
Atlanta.

New York took a 5-4 lead in a four-run fourth, when Bronson
Arroyo issued three walks.

One of them led to the ejection of Jackson, who was upset after
Gibson called a bases-loaded, 3-2 pitch to Sheffield a ball.
Francona rushed out of the dugout to argue and Jackson, who
followed, was restrained by several Boston coaches.

Matsui followed with a two-run single and Rodriguez put the
Yankees ahead with an RBI single.

Varitek's third homer of the season tied it in the fourth. But
with two outs and a 2-1 count on Bill Mueller, a pitch that
appeared to be low and inside was called a strike by Gibson. That
brought Francona out of the dugout again and he also was ejected.

Francona returned to the team Monday from a four-game absence
after undergoing tests for tightness in his chest that team
physician Dr. Thomas Gill said probably was caused by a viral
illness.

Game notes
Arroyo allowed runners in scoring position in each of the
first four innings. ... Johnson had at least one strikeout in each
of his seven innings.