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Yankees strengthen grip on division lead

NEW YORK (AP) -- Joe Torre walked up to Roger Clemens about an
hour before the game and delivered a message: "We need you
today.''

Clemens responded in style, striking out 10 in his 292nd career
victory as the New York Yankees strengthened their grip on the AL
East with a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.

"I heard him loud and clear,'' Clemens said. "When your
skipper mentions that, it's nice when you can come through.''

Clemens said his manager gives him a similar message a couple of
times a year, usually before a big postseason game.

But with the Yankees having lost three straight and their
biggest rivals in town, this game warranted special attention.

"We hadn't lost three in a row for a while,'' Torre said. "I
don't care how good your team is, there's always that little uneasy
feeling when you lose a couple of games in a row.''

The win increased the Yankees' lead in the division to 7½ games
over Boston with one meeting left. The Red Sox dropped 5½ behind
Anaheim in the wild-card race.

"We can't worry about that,'' manager Grady Little said. "We
have to worry about beating those guys tomorrow.''

Clemens (12-5) established himself from the start against his
former team, striking out the first four batters and making three
first-inning runs stand up.

Derek Jeter homered off Frank Castillo (5-13) and a rare error
by second baseman Rey Sanchez helped the Yankees score twice more
in the first.

That was enough for Clemens. He allowed one earned run and four
hits in 7 1/3 innings against the team he started his brilliant
career with before leaving as a free agent following the 1996
season.

Clemens has won three Cy Young Awards and two World Series
championships since then, adding more pain to a franchise that
hasn't won it all since 1918.

"There are only one or two guys over there that I went to
battle with,'' Clemens said. "But you can tell the difference when
we play the Sox because of the rivalry.''

Clemens posted his 102nd career double-digit strikeout game --
third most all-time -- and won for the 19th time in his last 20
decisions at home. His .767 winning percentage at Yankee Stadium is
the best for any New York pitcher with at least 30 wins.

Clemens left to a standing ovation following Jeter's throwing
error that allowed Johnny Damon to reach with one out in the
eighth.

"He gave us everything he could have possibly given us,'' Torre
said. "He's a horse. No question, he's a horse.''

After Ramiro Mendoza came on, Jeter bobbled Shea Hillenbrand's
grounder for another error, putting runners on first and second.

Nomar Garciaparra followed with an RBI single, bringing up the
dangerous Manny Ramirez.

"I really didn't put them in a good position -- Manny Ramirez
with runners on first and second,'' Jeter said. "He made a good
pitch. It was a relief.''

Mendoza got Ramirez to hit the first pitch for an inning-ending
double play, spoiling Boston's best chance.

"He hit the ball good and that was one of those pivotal points
in the game,'' Little said. "The double play is what you least
want at that point.''

Robin Ventura hit a solo homer with two outs in the eighth to
give the Yankees an insurance run.

Mike Stanton pitched the ninth for his third save, getting the
final out when pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga lined out to Jeter with a
man on.

Jeter, who went 0-for-5 and stranded six runners Monday, got the
Yankees started with his solo homer in the first inning.

Jason Giambi followed with a double and walks to Bernie Williams
and Jorge Posada loaded the bases with one out for Ventura.

Castillo induced a potential double-play grounder to shortstop,
but Sanchez's relay throw was wide of first and two runs scored on
the play. It was just Sanchez's fifth error of the season.

"He makes that play 10 out of 10 times,'' said Castillo, who
lost his seventh straight decision. "I've played with him for a
while and I've never seen that.''

The Red Sox got on the board in the third inning when Damon
doubled with two outs and scored on Hillenbrand's single.

Game notes
The season series is tied at nine. If the Red Sox win
Wednesday they will take the season series for the first time since
1999. ... Clemens improved to 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 14 starts
against Boston. ... Castillo allowed three runs -- two earned -- and
five hits in six innings to lose for the first time in four career
decisions against New York. ... Jeter's homer was the Yankees'
200th of the year -- the fifth time they've reached 200 in a season.