Yankees knock Red Sox out of first place, 5-4


NEW YORK -- On their way out the door, the Boston Red Sox stumbled badly again. In the past three weeks, they have lost a division lead, lost their best pitcher and, it sometimes has seemed, lost all of their bluster and confidence.

They somehow even figured out how to make the Yankees look good.

When they left the Bronx and headed home yesterday, the Red Sox had to prop up their chins to resemble a team that still believed it could regain the momentum it once had. But nothing is going right anymore.

The Red Sox were beaten by the Yankees, 5-4, and fell out of a tie with the Toronto Blue Jays in the tepid American League East, where the two contenders are slogging toward the finish.

As if their losing stretch were not bad enough -- two of three to the last-place Yankees, eight of 10 on a disastrous trip and 14 of 20 since the first week of September -- now the Sox have this news to lose sleep over: Roger Clemens, scratched from yesterday's scheduled start, may be done for the season.

Clemens, who has not pitched since Sept. 4 because of tendinitis in his right shoulder, attempted to throw in the bullpen early in the game but was forced to stop.

He will be examined today by the team physician, Dr. Arthur Pappas.

"Today's prognosis was not good," Boston manager Joe Morgan said after the game. "He didn't feel good, so he put the ball down. He felt a little tender. There wasn't much sense throwing anymore."

Is there much sense playing anymore? The Red Sox's slide came at the same time Clemens was hurt, and now they must approach their final nine games -- eight of which are at home -- knowing he probably won't be available.

"We're in a position to win the division," said second baseman Jody Reed, "and we're not going to fret over one guy. Everyone would love to have Roger pitch three more times, but if he doesn't, what are we going to do, roll over and die?"

Yesterday, they left three runners at third base, one of them in the eighth inning with no one out.

Wade Boggs, the No. 3 hitter, went 0-for-5 and left five stranded.

"We had a million chances, and we didn't do the job," Morgan said. "You've got to be tougher than we were."

The Yankees haven't enjoyed this kind of day since April. Steve Sax hit a home run, and he, Roberto Kelly, Don Mattingly and Randy Velarde each had two hits.

But their pitching was even better.

In the eighth, after Mike Greenwell hit a triple to left-center off Eric Plunk that pulled the Red Sox to within one run, the party looked over.

But Plunk struck out Dwight Evans and Mike Marshall, then retired Tony Pena on a ground ball to second.

"We're not in the race," said Dave Righetti, who earned his 34th save (in 37 chances) to give the victory to Mike Witt, "but the fans get up for this and the players want to win the game for bragging rights, or whatever you want to call it.

"The potshots we've taken have been incredible. We're called the worst team in baseball, and we've taken a lot of beatings. This lets us savor these wins a little bit more."

They had their way early with the Red Sox, who sent out Tom Bolton in place of Clemens but got little in return. Bolton, a left-hander, was lifted in the second after having allowed three runs.

Later, someone asked Bolton if the Red Sox had the feeling that each day from now on was becoming crucial.

"It's maybe getting to that point," he said. "Everybody wants to do well, but we seem to be pushing ourselves too far. Everybody wants to be a hero."

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