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4 K's spell trouble for Damon

NEW YORK -- He has played 1,426 games in the major leagues (1,407 in the regular season and 19 in the playoffs) and Johnny Damon did something last night he had never before done: He struck out four times.

Damon, the catalyst for the most productive offense in baseball, had one of the most difficult nights of his career as he battled Yankee starter Mike Mussina and reliever Tom Gordon.

"It definitely was not my best night," said the Red Sox center fielder, who ranked as the seventh-hardest batter to strike out (once every 9.9 plate appearances) in the American League this season.

Mussina, whose bid for a perfect game ended with the batter he faced after fanning Damon for the third time (Mark Bellhorn), got Damon swinging at a curveball down and in leading off the game. He caught him looking at a front-door fastball leading off the fourth and struck him out swinging at a curveball leading off the seventh. Gordon got Damon swinging at a nasty breaking ball with one out in the eighth.

"They were good pitches," Damon said. "Sometimes you have to give credit when it's due. They did a great job."

He particularly was impressed by Mussina.

"He was pretty awesome," Damon said. "For him to make me look silly like that all day, that doesn't happen too often."

Damon said the Sox may have struggled in part against Mussina because of their three-day layoff after the Division Series.

"Our bats were dragging through the zone a little bit, especially mine," he said. "I had slower swings, but I'll definitely be ready [tonight]."

Sense of security
Sox manager Terry Francona was startled to see uniformed men carrying Uzis when he came out of the team's midtown Manhattan hotel to head to Yankee Stadium. Francona whisked by the squad, uncertain of their mission. "I didn't ask," he said. "I got out of there." Charles Cellucci, the Sox director of security and a former Boston Police deputy superintendent, said the unit was not part of the security detail attached to the ball club. It was one of the "Hercules" teams formed by the New York Police Department in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and its presence was coincidental, Cellucci said. "They happened to be there," Cellucci said. "They did help the regular police detail clear the street for the players to board the buses." Cellucci said the Sox brought extra security for these games but he would not disclose specifics. He did say there will be extra security assigned to the bullpen when Pedro Martinez warms up tonight for Game 2. "We'll cover every critical area," Cellucci said . . . In 34 previous AL Championship Series, the team that won Game 1 has won the series 21 times (61.8 percent of the time). The Sox won Game 1 last year and lost the series in seven games . . . Jason Varitek's two-run shot in the seventh inning was his fourth career homer in a Championship Series, a franchise record . . . Kevin Millar, asked whether there was a difference between Francona and former manager Grady Little: "No, it's the same thing. They're very similar guys. Tito is more of an idiot like us. It's a generational thing. It's hilarious. We go over bunt signs, and he's on the toilet." Millar also said, "Grady was more country, but they both are players' managers and they both don't front-run you, and that's a tough thing to do. They have not forgotten how hard this game is." . . . How thoroughly did the Sox scout the Yankees? Seven scouts were involved in following the club: Jerry DiPoto, Dave Jauss, Mark Wasinger, Gary Rajsich, David Chadd, Alan Regier, and Bill Latham.

Silent protest
Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America, filed a protest with Major League Baseball over Martinez declining to be interviewed before the game. Pitchers for the next day's games in the postseason customarily appear in the interview room, but Millar stood in for Martinez, who also skipped last week's interview in Anaheim. The interviews are not mandatory, which means Martinez will not be fined . . . Former Angels owner Jackie Autry, who is still involved with the team, visited the Sox dugout before the game to meet Epstein and Francona. She also chatted with Derek Lowe. Autry serves as president of the American League, which means she will help present the trophy to the winner of the Championship Series. She said was much less distressed over the Sox beating the Angels in the Division Series this time than when the Sox stunned the Halos in the '86 ALCS. "This year was tough, but I was surprised we got as far as we got in the first place because of the injuries we had," she said. "But we definitely should have won it in '86. That game is so clear in my mind it's unbelievable. I can remember everything that happened in that game." . . . The head trainers for three of the four remaining playoff teams graduated from Springfield College: Boston's Jim Rowe (class of '87), Houston's Dave LaBoissiere ('74), and Barry Weinberg ('73) of the Cardinals . . . The Cadet Color Guard from the US Military Academy at West Point arrived early for their ceremonial duties and got a front-row glimpse of the Sox taking batting practice. Members included Jeff Coughlin and Chris Calway of Wilmington, Mass., and Matt Vigeant of Nashua, N.H. "This has been the coolest thing I've done in my life," Coughlin said, voicing the sentiments of the group . . . Hall of Famer Yogi Berra tossed the ceremonial pitch . . . A moment of silence was observed before the game for former National League MVP Ken Caminiti, who died Sunday at 41 . . . Patriots owner Bob Kraft made his first visit to Yankee Stadium, as a guest of Red Sox owner John Henry. Kraft, who went to college at Columbia in New York City, had never made it to the stadium. "I had a pass from [former Sox owner] John Harrington that would have gotten me into any American League park that I wanted, but I was just never able to go." . . . The starting time for a potential Game 5 at Fenway Park Sunday has been changed from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Gordon Edes and Jackie MacMullan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. 

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Red Sox 8 15 0
Yankees 19 22 1
WP: Vazquez LP: Mendoza
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Game 4: Sun., 8:19 p.m.
TV: Fox, Ch. 25 Radio: 850-AM
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