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RED SOX SCORE KO OF RIVERA
MUELLER'S HOMER ENDS STREET FIGHT WITH YANKS

It was a game that almost never happened. Now it will be hard to ever forget.

A long Saturday afternoon in Fenway Park, most notable for a bench-clearing brawl that featured Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek, ended with the unthinkable: The Boston Red Sox beating Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Third baseman Bill Mueller did the honors, sending a two-run homer into the right-field bullpen that gave the Sox a stunning 11-10 win over New York.

Boston finished its rally from a 9-4 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the ninth off Rivera, who entered the game with an 0.89 earned-run average and 35 saves. The Yankees, however, still lead the American League East by 8 1/2 games.

It was a remarkable finish to a 3-hour, 54-minute affair that began 54 minutes late due to a morning downpour. An hour before the first pitch, in fact, the Yankees were told the contest was postponed due to wet grounds before umpire crew chief Bruce Froemming -- and likely Fox television -- intervened and had the Sox grounds crew work on the field some more.

"I'll talk all night about this one," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, ejected in the fifth for arguing a play at second base. "I'm just not quite sure what to say."

Francona can easily start at the end. Nomar Garciaparra led off the ninth with a double off Rivera, went to third on Trot Nixon's deep fly to the warning track in right and scored on Kevin Millar's single to cut the Yankees' lead to 10-9.

Mueller then worked the count to three balls, one strike before lofting a high fly that at first appeared harmless. But Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield soon ran out of room, and the ball cleared the fence as the crowd of 34,501 exploded.

"I just wanted to move Kevin Millar into scoring position and go from there," Mueller said. "I was just very fortunate it carried."

Francona, Varitek and several Sox pitchers shared a communal hug in the middle of the clubhouse watching Mueller's ball sail out. Several of them burst up the tunnel back on to the field to join the mob scene by the plate.

"My head almost hit the ceiling in there because I jumped so high," Varitek said. "That was awesome."

Varitek missed the final six innings of this one after getting ejected following the brawl. After Sox starter Bronson Arroyo hit Rodriguez with a pitch, the Boston catcher intervened on his pitcher's behalf. Rodriguez, walking up the first-base line, barked at Varitek and Varitek responded with a quick right to the face that brought both benches and bullpens scurrying onto the field.

Rodriguez, Varitek, Boston's Gabe Kapler and New York's Kenny Lofton were ejected. Yankees starter Tanyon Sturtze was also a big participant, bruising his pinky and getting a cut ear in the mess. He gave up two runs in the third and left the game.

The extracurriculars briefly woke up the Red Sox and the crowd as they scored two runs in the third after the fight and two in the fourth for a 4-3 lead. The Yankees got six in the sixth to go up, 9-4, before the Sox started to chip away.

"You never advocate a fight," Francona said, "but I'd like to think in a while we will look back at this day as the one that brought us together."
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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