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BOB RYAN

Elevated play lifts the spirits

NEW YORK -- RBR (Randy Being Randy).

WBW (Wake Being Wake).

BBB (Baseball Being Baseball).

That's what we had at Yankee Stadium yesterday afternoon. Is there anything else you need to know?

For the second time in five days -- I'm including now the Tuesday night David Ortiz walkoff home run game -- we bore witness to an uplifiting game in which winner and loser were filled with dignity. With yesterday's 1-0 loss to the Yankees, the Red Sox ended up 1-1 in those games, and if some fan can't accept that, perhaps he or she needs a little remedial baseball education. The opportunity to see games like these is what following the sport is supposed to be all about. Your team isn't supposed to win 'em all.

This was a great win for Randy Johnson and the Yankees and a tough loss for Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox. Johnson gave the Yankees the game they've been waiting for all season. He gave up one weak chunker of a hit (a Kevin Youkilis fourth-inning flare to left-center) and no runs in seven innings. Wakefield was just as good, and in some ways even better. He gave up three hits in eight innings. He struck out a career-high 12. The difference between the flame-throwing lefthander and the butterfly-tossing righthander was a two-out, first-inning 317-foot fly ball off the bat of Jason Giambi, which just sneaked over the 314-foot sign adjacent to the right-field foul pole. Tough, but that's life in a pennant race.

''He threw me a breaking ball," Giambi said. ''I was just able to get the bat head on it."

A breaking ball?

''He had just fouled off a couple of two-strike knucklers, and I felt maybe he'd roll it over a little," Wakefield said. ''It was not a bad pitch. I didn't hang a curveball. I'm surprised he hit it out. But he's a good hitter, and you've got to tip your hat to him. I've faced him so many times over the years. I thought I'd try something different. It didn't work."

''It was a really good pitch, down and in," confirmed catcher Doug Mirabelli. ''He went out and hooked it to right. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you'll roll that to second base. But as confident and hot as he is right now, that's going to happen."

And with that, Wakefield was locked in for the rest of the afternoon. A knuckleball pitcher could not be better than Wakefield was during innings two through eight.

He gave up two more hits. The first was a third-inning one-out Bubba Crosby shot to right on which Kevin Millar ran an odd pattern that turned a double into a triple. Not to worry. Wake got Derek Jeter looking and Robinson Cano swinging. Three innings later Cano doubled to right, again with one out. And again, not to worry. Wake got Giambi looking and Alex Rodriguez swinging.

Wakefield was then in the midst of an outrageous stretch. Starting with Jorge Posada in the second, and concluding with the aforementioned A-Rod whiff in the sixth, Wakefield faced 18 men and retired 12 on strikes. He struck out the side in innings 3, 5, and 6.

''After my homer," said Giambi, who fanned in his two remaining at-bats, ''he was unhittable."

''That's probably as good as I've ever seen him," said Jeter, a two-time K victim. ''After Jason hit that curveball out, I don't think we would have hit him if we were out there another three hours."

But as much as it was Wake Being Wake, so, too, was it Randy Being Randy. This wasn't the old 19-K Johnson of his Cy Young days, but this was a quality 2005 Johnson coming up big in what was most assuredly a certified big game for the Bombers, who were desperate not to fall five behind the Red Sox as they head to Tampa/St. Pete.

''No question," said manager Joe Torre, ''this is our playoff season. And Randy was spectacular. He was locked in for seven innings. That's as good as he gets. Right from the first pitch, Randy was dominant, very dominant."

The Red Sox had zero threats against him. They didn't advance a man past first base until the eighth inning, and the man who created that situation was Ortiz, who had been withheld from the starting lineup by manager Terry Francona against Johnson, and was thus available for a pinch-hit situation.

And as we all watched the game unfold, no one needed a PhD in Diamondology to know that somewhere in this pearl of a contest there would be a Big Papi-Big Mo confrontation.

With Mirabelli on first and two away in the eighth, the big moment arrived. Tom Gordon had come on in relief of Johnson, and Torre knew what he had to do.

''You knew that at some point Ortiz would be popping out of the dugout," Torre said, ''and if they were going to bring him off the bench, we were going to bring in our best to face him." So Mariano Rivera trotted in from the bullpen.

Baseball Being Baseball.

Think about it. Yankee Stadium. Sox-Yankees. Pennant race. Eighth inning. Glorious September afternoon with the shadows beginning to creep in along the right-field line. Full house of 55,123 (not all rooting for the Yankees, either) on its feet, roaring. Tying run in a 1-0 game on first and baseball's premier hitter at the plate against perhaps the best closer of all-time.

You're daring to suggest there's a better sport?

Big Papi made him work. He ran the count to 3-2 and drew a walk. Not a victory for Rivera, but not a loss, either. He went 3-2 on Johnny Damon, too, survived a foul ball down the right-field line that just missed being the winning double on pitch No. 9, and got him on a weak grounder to first on pitch No. 10.

But his work wasn't done. With two away in the ninth, Manny Ramirez ran a count to 3-2 and drew a game-extending walk. Kevin Millar singled to right-center.

Francona had another big weapon to offer in the form of John Olerud as a pinch hitter. Olerud went to 2-2 before Rivera, on pitch No. 36 of what had turned out to be a very involved and dramatic appearance, got him swinging.

Yeah, OK, you can call that MBM (Mariano Being Mariano).

''That was pretty exciting," said Jeter. ''But I guess we liked it more than them, because we won."

No, Derek, we won. The baseball fans of America won. We had BBB. We had Baseball Being Baseball.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com.

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