Wells stops Yanks

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

BOSTON -- After 18 pitches it looked as if David Wells was two line drives from leaving.

Wells stayed for seven innings, the Boston Red Sox lefty strutting off the mound the way he usually does when he has hobbled opposing hitters.

Wells restored order in the first inning against the New York Yankees, pitching Boston to a 5-3 win before 34,832 fans and Robert Redford last night. The win moved the Sox into a flat-footed tie in the American League East, with identical records of 94-66.

Two games remain.

There is still a chance for a playoff. For example, if Boston sweeps the Yanks and the Indians win once, New York and Cleveland play Monday in Cleveland. If the Yanks lose that one, their private charter will land at an undisclosed airport in Nebraska. Players would then find their own way home -- on their own dime -- or sign with the Lincoln Salt Dogs.

Wells was showing Yankees management they had made a mistake in not re-signing him as a free agent. Tied for second in fewest walks per nine innings (one) this season, he doubled his average with one out in the first inning, walking Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi on 3-2 pitches. He then hit Gary Sheffield with an 0-1 pitch, loading the bases, and Hideki Matsui singled in a run.

So, 18 pitches in, down 1-0, bases loaded and the Yanks ready to put up a number on the scoreboard as crooked as the New Orleans police department. Wells struck out Jorge Posada and retired Ruben Sierra on a fly ball.

"I had it working," Wells told reporters. "Had a little help obviously. I left up a pitch to Derek and that was it. A lot of people doubted this game, but when you get an opportunity you gotta love it.

"You've got to want to take the reins and run with it. I was pretty calm."

The Yanks left the bases loaded in the first and had runners on second and third with one out in the seventh and didn't score.

"He didn't allow us a whole lot," his former manager, Joe Torre, said. "We had some chances, we didn't cash in on them."

Johnny Damon knows what speed can do. He saw Dave Roberts steal second which started the Sox on their historical comeback against the Yanks in the best-of-seven 2004 American League Championship Series. And he also knows he doesn't want to see intentional walks to either David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez.

Yet, twice he stole second in the first and again in the game-deciding sixth. Both times he scored.

LIKE THE PLAYOFFS

"I haven't had many stolen much the previous two seasons, I don't want to take the bats out of the hands of Ortiz," Damon said. "This is like the playoffs."

Ortiz singled home Damon in the first, and in the sixth Torre walked Ortiz intentionally. Ramirez swung at the first pitch from Chien-Ming Wang and nearly knocked the cameraman off his perch atop the left field stands in foul territory.

Ramirez then singled to load the bases and then Wang issued his sixth walk of the game, to Trot Nixon, forcing in a run to make it 3-1.

Things got ugly as Jason Varitek, who homered earlier, hit a routine grounder to first baseman Jason Giambi. A quick throw home would have resulted in an out, yet Giambi ran toward the base and threw off balance, bouncing the ball in the dirt. John Olerud hit a scoring fly ball for a 5-1 lead. Giambi's throw leading to two unearned runs.

That was awfully large after Derek Jeter hit a two-run homer off Wells in the seventh.

"The key was getting a quality start from Wells," Varitek said. "The later he gets us into the game, the easier it is to mix and match relievers."

Out of the suspect Boston bullpen came Chad Bradford, Mike Myers and Mike Timlin to record the final six outs.

"We're feeling better about our situation, we had we lost against Toronto (Thursday), it would have been awfully tough," Damon said. "But we won (Thursday) and we won (last night).

"And we know we have to win (today), and it's still not over."


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