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Red Sox win fifth straight

BOSTON (AP) -- Jason Varitek was busier in front of the plate than behind it on Friday night.

Varitek blocked the plate to stop the tiebreaking run from scoring in the eighth inning and then bunted and scored the game-winner in the ninth to give the Boston Red Sox a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a rematch of the first World Series.

After Boston failed to drive in a runner from third with nobody out in the eighth, Kevin Millar led off the ninth by working an 11-pitch at-bat for a double. Varitek said third base coach Dale Sveum told him, "Any way you can, you've got to get him over."

Varitek bunted the ball to the left of the plate, and Rick White
(2-3) stumbled and fumbled the ball while trying to field it. Bill Mueller, who had a double and a triple with two RBI, was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Mark Bellhorn, who hit a three-run homer in the second, grounded into a force at the plate. But Mike Gonzalez relieved, and Johnny Damon hit a 2-1 pitch up the middle through the drawn-in infield.

"It was a good pitch by Mike, but we had the infield in," catcher Humberto Cota said. "It was a little dribbler."

Keith Foulke (4-3) struck out two in the ninth to give Boston its fifth consecutive victory and send the Pirates to their fifth straight loss.

The Pirates hadn't played the Red Sox in Boston since coming to the Huntington Avenue Grounds in 1903, when the American and National Leagues agreed to stop raiding each other's players and meet in a nine-game "world's series." Pittsburgh played the Boston Braves in Fenway Park 10 times from 1914-15, and the Red Sox visited Pittsburgh for interleague play in 2003.

Pittsburgh scored four runs in the first inning of the first Series and started quickly again in its return. The Pirates scored three in the first but -- just as in 1903, when Boston won in eight games -- things turned out wrong for the Bucs.

It was 5-5 in the eighth when Cota singled with one out and, on Jack Wilson's grounder back to pitcher Mike Timlin, Bellhorn fumbled the throw. Second base umpire C.B. Bucknor called Cota out at second, but replays showed the second baseman never caught the ball.

Matt Lawton walked, and Freddy Sanchez lined a single to left field. Manny Ramirez's throw pulled Varitek to the first base side of the plate, but Wilson slid into the catcher's shinguard and missed the plate; Varitek applied the tag to end the inning.

"Those things can't go unnoticed, because that saves the game right there," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "You saw his awareness. Right away he pounces on the runner. That's a good, good play."

Varitek said he doesn't like to talk about blocking the plate.

"It's something that we have to do," he said, "and it's not always the funnest thing to do."

Boston had a missed opportunity in the bottom half, failing to score after Edgar Renteria led off with a triple into the right field corner, chasing Salomon Torres after just one batter. John Grabow got David Ortiz to pop up and then intentionally walked Ramirez.

White came on and got pinch-hitter Jay Payton to bounce a ball over the mound. Wilson, the shortstop, fielded the ball and threw behind him to second baseman Jose Castillo, who turned the inning-ending double play.

Game notes
Seven of the 13 games started by Pittsburgh's Josh Fogg
this season have been decided by one run. ... Daryle Ward doubled in the first inning to extend the Pittsburgh's streak of extra-base hits. The Pirates are the only team to have one in every game this season. ... Boston right-hander Curt Schilling threw for 20 minutes before the game and reported no problems with the right ankle that has kept him on the disabled list since April 24. He is scheduled to test his ankle again by throwing batting practice on Monday. ... Bellhorn was 1-for-18 before his three-run homer in the second inning.