The New York Yankees made Boston's April dominance seem like distant history.
Gary Sheffield hit a three-run homer, Tony Clark hit a rare drive into the center field bleachers and Javier Vazquez beat the Red Sox for the first time in his career, leading the Yankees to an 11-3 victory last night in New York.
With Vice President Dick Cheney looking on and a sellout crowd of 55,231 yelling from the first pitch, there was a postseason atmosphere at Yankee Stadium. And the Yankees, who went 1-6 against Boston in April and dropped 41/2 games out of first, responded with a playoff-type performance and opened a season-high 61/2-game lead over the second-place Red Sox in the AL East.
Johnny Damon hit a pair of solo homers and David Ortiz hit his 20th homer, tying teammate Manny Ramirez for the league lead. But the Red Sox, seeking to win four straight at Yankee Stadium in one season for the first time since 1986, were done in by atrocious defense and a poor outing by Derek Lowe (6-7), who allowed a career-high nine runs.
Hideki Matsui, 11 for 19 (.579) against Lowe with 11 RBI, hit a tiebreaking two-run single in a three-run third that made it 4-2, a hit that came one pitch after Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez pulled off a double steal. New York had four steals overall, matching its season high, and Jeter had three hits to raise his average to a season-best .272, up from .189 on May 26.
The Red Sox, who have lost six of nine overall, made three errors and allowed four unearned runs, raising their total to a major league-leading 58. Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who missed the April games with Achilles' tendinitis, was Boston's Achilles' heel, allowing Jeter's two-out grounder in the fourth to kick off the heel of his glove for his second error of the game.
Sheffield followed with a three-run homer that boosted New York's lead to 7-2. Fans responded with chants of "Thank you, Nomar!"
Second baseman Pokey Reese bobbled Jorge Posada's fifth-inning grounder, failing to help turn what would have been an inning-ending double play. Clark followed with a two-run homer, joining Bernie Williams and Danny Tartabull as the only players to reach the center field bleachers more than once since the remodeled Yankee Stadium opened in 1976.
One fan hung pictures of former Boston manager Grady Little from the upper deck for each of Vazquez's strikeouts.
* BLUE JAYS 4, DEVIL RAYS 0: Ted Lilly won his fifth straight road decision and Eric Hinske stole home, leading Toronto to victory.
Lilly (7-4) didn't allow a run over six-plus innings in improving to 5-0 over his last seven starts away from SkyDome. He gave up three hits, four walks and struck out three.
Vinnie Chulk pitched two hitless innings, and Jason Frasor struck out the side in the ninth to complete the three-hitter.
Hinske stole home on the front end of a double steal during a two-run first as the Blue Jays sent the Devil Rays to their third loss in 19 games. The Devil Rays had scored 29 runs in their previous two games against Toronto.
It was the first time a Toronto player stole home since Raul Mondesi accomplished the feat on April 17, 2001, against the Yankees.