Yankees 8, Red Sox 4

Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

-- It is the two freshly shaved idiots in the enemy clubhouse, the four games that separated the teams in the standings and the championship rings worn by the squad from Boston that is proof this legendary rivalry, which began so innocently with the sale of Babe Ruth in 1920, has been turned upside down.

After 86 years of agony and pain, the roles have been reversed in this long-running feud, and the Boston Red Sox can finally claim superiority over the New York Yankees.

"The roles have changed as of the last league championship series when they went to the World Series and we went home," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "It's not something we like to remember. But you [media] guys have a habit of reminding us. We can't say it's a new role since we've been chasing them for almost a year."

Yankee Stadium was full of fans and angst on Friday night with the Yankees clinging to their playoff hopes and the Red Sox entering the Bronx with a comfortable four-game lead in the American League East. A Yankees sweep this weekend, which was still possible with New York's 8-4 win on Friday night, still won't change order of teams in the division.

"It feels pretty good because last year we were trying to make up ground," Boston center fielder Johnny Damon said. "Now we're trying to gain ground. We feel like we're in a pretty good situation."

It is the Red Sox who wear the rings and Yankees who wear championship hopes on their sleeves. It was the Yankees who sent a virtual unknown, Aaron Small, to the mound on Friday while the Red Sox sent David Wells, a former Yankee who had dominated at Yankee Stadium throughout his career.

"It has changed," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "They are the champions until somebody beats them. It's made it more of a rivalry by definition."

In the past month and a half the Yankees have acquired Alan Embree and Mark Bellhorn, two former Red Sox players who played a critical role in the playoffs last season but were designated for assignment by Boston earlier this year.

"We're trying to brainwash them," Torre joked. "We're trying to get information from them but they won't talk."

Both players had let their facial hair grow with Boston and had fully embraced the "idiots" nickname bestowed upon the Red Sox. Now each is cleanly shorn and is the perfect symbol of Yankee etiquette.

"That's what you have to do when you go over there," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar, who happily sported a bushy goatee.

It has been quite a year for the world champion Red Sox. In Boston, fans that were so quick to panic and seemingly so eager to see how their beloved Red Sox would ruin another championship try are finally content.

"You go to the ballpark and people are there enjoying the game and not just miserable and expecting the worst," Damon said. "I think people are able to enjoy themselves more."

It was with Small's admirable effort that Yankees fans were able to enjoy themselves on Friday. He allowed four runs in 61/3 innings while outpitching Wells.

The Yankees, hoping that a late-season run sends them to the World Series, put the game out of reach with four runs in the sixth -- thanks in large part to some shaky defense by the Red Sox.

"We're trying to do," Bellhorn said, "what the Red Sox did last year and catch fire."