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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Stirring finale was impressive windup

When it's the Red Sox and Yankees, even in April, it always goes back to the Bible.

During the ninth inning, said Sox general manager Theo Epstein, "I turned to the guy next to me and said, `The apocalypse is upon us. The tying run is coming to the plate in the form of A-Rod, who hasn't had a hit all series. Foulke's facing him. Right field's on fire. Apparently, we're all going to die. This is the end of the world.' "

Not quite. But it was pretty good baseball theater as the Sox and Yankees finally delivered a memorable game in their Marathon weekend hardball festival. The Sox wound up winning three of the four games, including yesterday's Breakfast Club finale, a 5-4 thriller that had more than its share of memorable moments, bonehead plays, meteorological events, and yes, a Fenway neighborhood fire that spewed black smoke into the sky beyond the right-field grandstand. And all that while the Marathon leaders were approaching Kenmore Square down Beacon Street, just one block behind the Green Monster. It was hard to know which way to look.

In the end it was best to train one's eyes on home plate, where Yankees cleanup man Jason Giambi -- taunted all four days with a chant of "You use ster-oids!" -- took a called third strike from Sox closer Keith Foulke for the final out of the wacky weekend.

The Sox won this end game with a lineup that included David McCarty and Cesar Crespo batting in the six and seven holes, respectively. They won on a day when Yankees ace Kevin Brown had a 4-1 lead in the third. They won on a day Gabe Kapler twice forgot how many outs there were in the same inning (Kapler came back to drive in the winning run). They won on a day Manny Ramirez made a nice catch in the ninth, crashing into the Wall after grabbing a shot off the bat of Bernie Williams. They won on a day Hideki Matsui lost a shoulda-been routine fly ball in the sun and the wind.

They won because they did the little things that carried them through the Cowboy Up campaign of 2003. Bronson Arroyo stayed the course on a day he had marginal stuff. David Ortiz delivered a two-out, RBI single, and later drove in a run with an infield hit. Oh, and McCarty reached second base because he ran hard on his wind-blown pop to left field (the one Matsui misjudged) in the eighth.

It was a textbook moment for baseball coaches of the world. You teach players to run out everything. Hard. You never know what might happen. Had McCarty flung his bat and jogged to first, he would not have been in position to score on Kapler's two-out single.

"I know a lot about our club," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "I know they won't stop playing. When McCarty hits that popup, he runs."

McCarty is 34 and has been playing professional baseball for 14 years. He's been with the Twins, Giants, Mariners, Royals, Devil Rays, and A's. He tried to make the Sox this spring as a lefthanded pitcher and found himself on the mound when Francona ran out of pitchers in the home opener. He's never going to be Alex Rodriguez. But he plays the game with respect and that's why he was on second when his popup dropped to Matsui's left.

"I was not too happy when I hit it," McCarty said. "I got a good pitch to hit and just missed it. But that's why you run it out. If it drops and you're standing on first, you look like a fool."

It was McCarty's only hit of the season.

This was not a scintillating weekend of baseball. MLB's Harvard and Yale combined to make 11 errors (six for Boston, five for New York) and quality starting pitchers named Vazquez, Mussina, Contreras, and Lowe were sub-par. Two Sox outfielders lost track of the outs (Johnny Damon Saturday and Kapler, who clearly is not a morning person, yesterday). There was only one lead change in the first three games, all of which were decided by at least three runs.

But after everything that happened over the winter, A-Rod's Fenway flop stands as the lasting memory of the most-hyped April series in the history of baseball. Before stroking a two-out single in the ninth, Rodriguez was 0 for 16 with six punchouts in his first Fenway series as a Yankee (A-Rod was batting .143 when he came to the plate against Foulke in the ninth). He also double-clutched and made a throwing error on a key play when the Sox tied the game in the seventh. He may yet win a bookend MVP award this season, but at this hour, in the wake of his personal Boston massacre, Rodriguez no doubt has some New Yorkers wondering if he's too soft for the Apple.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, makes for a happy holiday in Red Sox Nation. See you in New York Friday.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com. 

In Today's Globe
LATEST RESULTS
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Red Sox 3 6 2
Yankees 2 4 2
WP: Foulke LP: Quantrill
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Starting pitchers:
BOS: Martinez NYY:Vazquez
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AL EAST STANDINGS
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Boston 11 6 .647 0.5
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20
@Tor
W,4-2
21
@Tor
W,4-2
22
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L, 7-3
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24
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25
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26
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