Bad vibes sweeping Red Sox


NEW YORK -- If this magic carpet ride of 1995 ends with a premature crash landing, citizens of Red Sox Nation may look back at the second weekend in September as the first sign that the Sox weren't ready to win a World Series. Over three days and nights in the Bronx, the second-place New York Yankees pummeled the first-place Red Sox.

Last night, playing under a "1918" banner hanging from the upper deck facade, Kevin Kennedy's Lost Boys finished their Lost Weekend with a 9-3 loss to the hated Pinstripes. It marks the first time the Sox were swept this season. Two of the embarrassing losses were nationally televised.

You want Magic Numbers, Sox fans? We'll give you Magic Numbers:

* 26-8 -- The aggregate score of New York's sweep.

* 102 -- The Sox's league-leading error count. There were three more errors last night. The Boston defense shall heretofore be known as "Windows '95."

* 5-8 -- The Sox's record vs. New York this year.

* 2,131 -- The number of times New York fans chanted "Boston [expletives]."

Meanwhile, the real Magic Number is holding at a standing eight-count.

A disgusted Kennedy pledged to have a team meeting tonight in Baltimore and said, "I don't want to hear about playoffs. We're not in the playoffs. We have business to take care of and we didn't take care of it here."

Most Valuable Player candidate Mo Vaughn (who hit his 34th homer in the final beating), always the soul of the Sox, sat on the bench and pondered the weekend for 10 minutes after the final out.

"This team should go nowhere and get swept," said Vaughn. "And I always look to myself. I'll be riding that damn bus to the airport trying to find out if there's something I didn't do. We can't worry about magic numbers and all that other garbage. We've got some work to do. I don't know what has happened, but we looked bad this weekend."

The Bronx Tale was role reversal of the highest order. Could it mean the wild-card Yankees will be back to haunt Boston again this October?

When the Sox arrived in New York, it looked like the Yankees were safely buried, but now the fear is back. Illogical, but true: even when the Sox have a double-digit first-place lead, the Yankees can throw a scare into the heart of the Boston fandom. This weekend, it looked like the Sox were the ones chasing the Yankees.

Continuing an alarming pattern of poor starts by Boston pitchers, Erik Hanson (13-5) surrendered five runs in the first two innings.

Darryl Strawberry conked a two-run homer off Hanson in the first and a Mike Greenwell error helped the Yankees to three more runs in the second.

Meanwhile, the Sox managed only three hits and no runs against the immortal Sterling Hitchcock in the first five innings. The Yankees left-hander came into the game with a record of 7-9 and an ERA of 4.98.

Boston fought back when Vaughn and Jose Canseco hit two balls a combined 800 feet to shock the cocky New Yorkers back to reality. Vaughn's homer barely cleared the fence in left-center's Death Valley. Canseco's blast, his 23rd, carried deep into Monument Park. It was the first time all season Vaughn and Canseco homered back-to-back.

The Yanks answered with four in the bottom of the sixth -- all after two outs and nobody on. With two on, Hanson was relieved by lefty Eric Gunderson. Wade Boggs smacked Gunderson's first pitch into center for an RBI single to make it 6-3. Gunderson walked the next two batters, forcing home another run and it was 7-3. Gunderson has failed to retire a batter in his last three appearances (three hits, three walks).

When Ruben Sierra pinch hit for Strawberry, Kennedy summoned Joe Hudson. Sierra greeted Hudson with a two-run single and it was 9-3.

Greenwell made a nice catch in the eighth, robbing Boggs of a homer. But it was too late.

"It just didn't happen for us here," said Greenwell. "They're playing well and they jumped on us every day. We need to turn it right back around now."

The Red Sox have not lost four straight games at any time this year. But at least they've left New York. The Yankees can't hurt them anymore . . . until October.

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