NEW YORK -- Don't look now, but for the first time in two years, the Yankees are in a dogfight for the American League's Eastern Division crown.
Bret Saberhagen dragged his rebuilt right shoulder off the disabled list Sunday afternoon to throw five innings of three-hit, one-run ball, and his teammates strung together three bloop hits for three runs in the eighth inning, as the Red Sox beat Roger Clemens for the first time in his career, 4-1, and complete their first sweep of the Bombers at Yankee Stadium since 1986.
The sweep pulled the Red Sox to within 3 1/2 games of the Yankees for the division lead, five games closer than they were just 13 days ago and closer than they have been since trailing by three games July 16.
"When it's tied, that's when we have to start getting concerned," said reliever Jeff Nelson, who gave up one of the hits in the eighth inning. "The way we have to look at it, we're 3 1/2 games up in first place, and Boston's three games up on Oakland in the wild-card race, so we're really 6 1/2 games up for the playoffs. We've got a tough seven-game stretch coming up in Toronto and Cleveland, and this is a very important stretch for us."
"Whether we wanted it or not, we got a tremendous wake-up call this weekend," David Cone said. "We were in firm control of the division, and now we're not. What's obvious is that we're a lot worse off now than we were three days ago."
Sunday's game was important for several reasons, not the least of which was to test Clemens, who had lost three of his previous four starts and was abominable in his previous start, a 5-3 loss in Anaheim. He now has lost three straight starts for the first time since 1993.
For seven innings, Clemens passed the test, allowing just two hits and one run, all in the fourth inning. The rest of the time, he kept the Red Sox guessing and reaching with a mixture of fastballs and splitters and pinpoint location that resulted in just three walks and seven strikeouts.
"You can't compare last start and this one," Clemens said after falling to 12-9. "I had nothing my last start. I was lethargic and my arm was dragging. Tonight I was crisp and my location was better."
But Saberhagen, who hadn't pitched since Aug. 17 with soreness in his right shoulder, was doing the same for the Red Sox. After giving up a leadoff homer to Chuck Knoblauch in the first -- Knoblauch's 17th and seventh leading off a game this season -- he settled down, and combined with three Boston relievers to keep the Yankees off the board the rest of the way.
The Yankees paid in the eighth, as No. 9 hitter Trot Nixon whacked Clemens' first pitch of the inning up the middle for a single, and Jose Offerman punched a single over Scott Brosius, who was playing in for a bunt. Darren Lewis then dropped a pop-up just in front of Bernie Williams in center field for one run, and Reggie Jefferson walked to load the bases and send Clemens to the showers.
Nomar Garciaparra, who homered twice in Boston's 11-10 victory Saturday, made the score 3-1 with a sacrifice fly off Nelson, and Troy O'Leary followed with another pop just in front of a diving Williams for a 4-1 lead.
"There's a lot of talk about pushing the panic button, but I don't see anything like that here," Cone said. "We've been through a lot as a team. We know not to do that."