for this game

Clemens, Damon lead Yankees past Red Sox

Aug 30, 2007 - 5:12 AM BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- The Boston Red Sox could not do much against one former teammate and again could not contain another.

Roger Clemens tossed six solid innings and Johnny Damon delivered a two-run single as the New York Yankees crept closer in the division race Wednesday with a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox.

Alex Rodriguez added an important home run for New York (74-59), which climbed within six games of first-place Boston (80-53) in the American League East Division. The Yankees, who improved to a major league-best 31-16 since the All-Star break, also pulled even with the Seattle Mariners (73-58) atop the wild card standings.

"Roger was great tonight," Rodriguez said. "He threw great, and he brings a lot to this team. He's as big a reason for this resurgence."

Clemens (6-5) carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning despite walking four over the first five frames. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner retired leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia in the fifth before David Ortiz launched a towering home run to right field, spoiling the no-hit bid as well as the shutout.

But Clemens got Jason Varitek to ground out with runners on the corners and two outs later in the inning and turned over the game to the bullpen. The future Hall of Famer yielded one run and two hits with a season-high five walks and two strikeouts.

"I was trying to be as stingy as possible," said the 45-year-old Clemens, who starred for the Red Sox from 1984-96. "I'm asking my body to be 25 again. I'm pitching behind Andy Pettitte (in the rotation) right now and we just have to win."

"Taking him out was tough to do," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "With a three-run lead, it's up to him. He's pitching because it's still fun for him. It's a piece of history you're watching out there. I was thinking, 'If it's a no-hitter, he's going to stay out there.'"

Luis Vizcaino tossed a scoreless seventh, but Kyle Farnsworth ran into trouble in the eighth, allowing a one-out single by Mike Lowell before Kevin Youkilis belted a two-run shot to left, reducing Boston's deficit to 4-3.

"I thought it could provide a spark, but unfortunately, it didn't," Youkilis said of his career-high 14th homer.

Farnsworth came back to strike out J.D. Drew but then walked Varitek, prompting Torre to call upon closer Mariano Rivera, who retired Coco Crisp on a weak comebacker to end the inning.

Rivera then set down the side quietly in the ninth for his 22nd save.

The Yankees gave Clemens all the support he needed in the second inning, scoring three times against major league wins leader Josh Beckett (16-6). Jorge Posada started the rally with a one-out single and Robinson Cano drew a two-out walk before Melky Cabrera delivered an RBI base hit to center field.

Following a wild pitch, Damon - who won Tuesday's game with a two-run homer - singled to left-center, plating both runners for a 3-0 lead.

"There was a lot of room over there," Torre said, referring to where Damon placed his hit. "He did a good job."

"Johnny's a big part of this offense," Rodriguez added. "We don't do anything without Johnny Damon."

Despite coming up with two big hits in as many days against his former team, Damon does not find it any more sweeter than helping the Yankees defeat any other club.

"It doesn't matter who we beat," said Damon, who was the hero for Boston in Game Seven of its AL Championship Series win over New York in 2004. "I know you guys want me to say it matters. (I) just go out there and try to help my team win."

Ortiz's 25th blast of the season got the Red Sox within two runs. The power-hitting designated hitter thought the homer might provide a spark for his team but admitted it was difficult getting to Clemens.

"At the time, I thought it could," Ortiz said. "(But) he was hitting his spots. He's been steady for so long. At that age, I'll be cutting grass in my backyard."

The spark was extinguished in the seventh by Rodriguez, who lined a shot over the left-center field wall with two outs for his major league-leading 44th homer and a 4-1 advantage. It proved to be the difference, something the All-Star third baseman was not expecting it to be when he hit it.

"I wasn't thinking about it at the time, but Joe's been advocating that every at-bat is important," Rodriguez said. "That's a great team over there."

"It came down to really one pitch," Beckett said. "It was a good pitch in a good spot to a good hitter."

The blast was the 508th of Rodriguez's career, tying him with Toronto's Frank Thomas for 20th place on the all-time list.

Beckett lasted 6 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs and a career-high 13 hits. The righthander walked one and struck out six.

"My job is to execute pitches," Beckett said. "They fouled good pitches off and (got) good swings. They get good swings, they get hits. ... I've been better, but I've definitely been worse."

"I saw a guy who left every ounce of what he had out there," Boston manager Terry Francona said of Beckett. "There were some balls that were hit hard - that's part of the game - like that hit by Johnny Damon."

The Red Sox played without star left fielder Manny Ramirez, who left Tuesday's series opener with muscle spasms in his lower back. The slugger also is not expected to play in Thursday's finale against the Yankees.

"I don't think it's going to be a couple of days," Francona said. "We'll just need to play this one out."