Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The Boston Red Sox won the first battle of the 16 Days War Monday night, 10-4, taking a menacing step toward inundating the World Champions from New York before this season reaches its halfway point.
In the first 1978 renewal of this blood feud, Boston crashed across six runs in a tie-breaking eighth inning against the very pride of the Yankee - bullpen of Rich Gossage and Sparky Lyle.
"The Yankees are in a hole now and they know it," said Carlton Fisk after Boston's AL east lead reached seven games over Baltimore. "But they didn't dig for the hole themselves. We made it for them."
The first of seven meetings within 16 days between the ancient foes served notice that the Yanks, now tied for third from Milwaukee (eight games back), must awaken soon, or fall as far behind the '78 Sox as the '76 champs from Cincinnati dropped behind Los Angeles last year.
"I like the trend," beamed Bosox Manager Don Zimmer. "It's tough bein' World Champ, ain't it?"
The Red Sox face the Yanks and Orioles 14 times in these 16 days - a staggeringly unconventional bit of scheduling.
However, no team could wish for a better let's-get-it-settled blastoff than Boston's six-run uprising.
Gossage, the free agent flame thrower, was the symbol of the Yanks tonight. Martin waved for The Goose, who looks more like a vulture, in the fourth inning, an early summons that showed how desperately the champs wanted to get off on the right Fenway foot.
And Gossage, the hardest heaver in baseball after Nolan Ryan, was at his nastiest. His first pitch of the eighth, score tied, 4-4, knocked Fisk on his back.
"We had hit (Craig) Nettles in the back of the neck with a fast ball that slipped," said Fisk, "so I knew what was coming. They always retaliate at me. What else is new?"
What was new was the liner that Fisk bounced off the left field wall for a leadoff double. In any other park ever built it would have been a loud out. Welcome to Fenway.
"It opened the inning up," Fisk said with a grin.
After an intentional walk, Gossage glared in at George Scott, the husky fellow that Boston wanted to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Scott's first attempt was abysmal, a slap foul liner that Yank Chris Chambliss almost caught.
"The Boomer had already struck out three times tonight," said Manager Zimmer, "but after the first attempt to bunt, I didn't want to see it again."
So Scott swung away. After waving through Gossage heat all night, he bounced a game-winning single into center field.
Then came the deluge.
With a hysterical craziness that rivaled the 16-homers-in-three-games orgy that Boston greeted New York with here last June, the Sox started circling the sacks.
Rick Burleson poked a basses-loaded single to right that Reggie Jackson bobbled, then plucked at three times. One RBI Burleson. One error Jackson for another score.
Billy Martin called for Sparky Lyle, who seemed a trifle petulant. Jerry Remy greeted him with a two-run double to right center and Jim Rice singled him home. Just to give the crowd of 33,163 an extra chuckle, Jackson fell down after failing to flag Remy's hit.
If the Yanks, who have lost 10 of their last 18 while Boston (now 46-20) has won 10 of its last 11, needed further demonstration of their poor execution and worse luck, it came in the ninth.
With one out they loaded ther bases - a spiteful show of defiance.But Netles on third forgot to count outs, wandered almost to the plate on a popup to third, then dove back to safety by inches with Buch Hobson in pursuit.
Roy White, who had homered in a four-run Yank fourth that knocked out starter Luis Tiant, ended the game with a 415-foot fly out. Fred Lynn caught the ball just a yard or so from grand-slam homer territory in deepest center.
Even before the fame the Yank admitted their backs were to the wall. "This is it," said Nettles. "We're at World Series readiness. That's what the atmosphere seems like here and we feel it."
"It's easy to say, there are 95 games left after this, but face it, we can't afford to get swept here and fall 10 games behind."
The hidden star of this games that started with thunder (followed by a 49-minute rain delay) was Dwight Evans.
With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, Yanks ahead, 4-2, and the recently arrived Gossage throwing aspirin tablets to cure the Yankee headache. Evans roll-blocked Willie Randolph at second base to break up potential inning-ending double play.
Randolph's throw ended up in the seats and two runs scored. In the next inning, right fielder Evans threw out Bucky Dent going from first to third. "Evans gunned that ball 275 feet on the fly," marveled Yankee Catfish Hunter. As it proved that peg saved a run, too.
This was a night for Boston, championless since 1916 to gloat. "Last year's team set home run records every day," said a beaming Zimmer, "but this team's far better."
And he started to name his heroes - the unsung bullpen of Tom Burgmeier and Bob Stanley that prevailed again tonight, the secret virtues of Evans.