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ON BASEBALL

Hot heads prevail as visitors show fire

It was Joe Terror and Scott "The Headhunter" Proctor.

On a team that has been lifeless and methodical for most of this season, the New York Yankees showed they can be nasty -- and that they may not be dead yet.

The usually calm, cool, collected Joe Torre stormed out of the Yankee dugout during a fifth-inning Red Sox pitching change and let third base umpire Jerry Crawford have it. The Yankees were already leading, 9-3, in their 9-5 win, but Crawford missed a call at third on an attempted stolen base by Bobby Abreu earlier in the inning and Torre had to say something.

He said a lot and got himself ejected for the second time this season (the first coming May 6 vs. Seattle when he got the heave-ho for Proctor throwing behind a batter).

Proctor received his second ejection last night when he threw toward Kevin Youkilis's head in the ninth, grazing the Sox first/third baseman's helmet. Home plate umpire Brian O'Nora ran him immediately. Youkilis popped up off the ground and yelled, "What the [expletive] is that?" toward Proctor. Jorge Posada stepped in to restrain him. The benches and bullpens emptied.

There was some back-and-forth between Melky Cabrera and Wily Mo Peña, but nothing came of it.

Said Youkilis: "Don't need to fuel the fire around here. I have no comment. There was nothing going on. What stays on the field is what's said on the field and that's it."

Wow. This was like the old-fashioned Yankees-Red Sox series, which, in the old days, was usually a Yankee win of the game and the fight.

It appeared Proctor was retaliating over Robinson Cano being hit with a pitch in the top of the ninth by Javier Lopez, which caught Cano on the left elbow, but Proctor denied it. In fact, Proctor said before he threw his first pitch Posada went out to advise him: "Let's not do anything here. Let's just get out of the inning and end the game."

While throwing at batters isn't the greatest way to make a point, Torre's argument and Proctor's act at least showed the Yankees are alive and kicking and care about wanting to win and protect their teammates.

"We need to be more fiery," said Torre from his office after the game. "I'm not saying that's my new personality, but we are showing more fight. It doesn't mean throwing at people or any of that crap like that."

In the past, there's been the perception that Red Sox pitchers have been far more aggressive in protecting their hitters than the Yankees. Not last night.

Proctor, who hopes to avoid a suspension after trying to plead his case to O'Nora, even said as much after the game, but he remained steadfast that the ball slipped out of his hand on a 2-and-2 pitch. The Yankees, who kept the clubhouse closed for a while after the game, seemed to get their stories straight.

"If I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it on the first pitch, not 2 and 2," Proctor said. "That's not smart baseball. That's not winning baseball." Proctor added, "I'm never trying to throw at anyone's head. I would never want to hurt someone or jeopardize someone's career."

But Proctor and Torre both said they understood Youkilis's reaction.

Torre said Proctor came into his office immediately after the game to tell him that he didn't mean to throw at him. After Torre watched the sequence -- in which Posada was lined up inside but the ball got away from Proctor -- Torre understood what Proctor meant.

Posada even walked over to first base to speak to Youkilis to discuss why Proctor was not throwing at him.

"You're not going to be two-faced like that and go over and talk to Youkilis if you meant to hit him," reasoned Torre.

Meanwhile, Crawford missed the Abreu call and Torre told him so flat out.

After he had returned to the bench, Torre said the umpire gestured to him with his hands as one would when indicating someone was talking. Torre decided to go back out to see what Crawford meant by the gesture.

While Torre said he never saw a replay, "I knew he was safe. I asked Jerry did he come off the bag? He said, 'No, the tag beat him.' I knew that wasn't right. This escalated into something totally different that I wish hadn't happened. He got hot and I got hot."

Abreu looked as if he had his hand slightly off the bag for a split second, and as soon as he did it, Crawford called him out. But Youkilis never reapplied a second tag. The replay showed Abreu had beat the first tag.

It may have cost the Yankees a big inning. But by that point they had a six-run lead after scoring six times in the fourth on a night they plastered Tim Wakefield for eight runs on five hits and six walks. While the Yankees beat the Red Sox two of three last week in New York, they went on to lose five of six after that. They started last night 13 1/2 games out of first place.

The Yankees have been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Alex Rodriguez was at the center of most of it. Paparazzi caught him going to dinner and a strip club in Toronto with a busty blonde. And there was the "Mine!" incident in Toronto, which drew heavy criticism.

The blond masks folks wore were amusing at first, but once the runs started to mount for the Yankees, they became less appropriate.

In addition, Jason Giambi (15-day disabled list) will be lost for about a month -- and perhaps for the season -- but the Yankees have enough hitters to make up for the loss. And Giambi could soon hear of a possible suspension for his quasi-admission to USA Today last month that he took steroids.

But there was fire last night. The Red Sox probably didn't like the method to the Yankees' madness. And today, the Sox might answer with a message of their own.

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