NEW YORK (AP) – Gary Sheffield flashed some mesmerizing power, beating the Boston Red Sox with a rare home run into Yankee Stadium’s left-field upper deck.

Sheffield’s three-run drive off Alan Embree capped a five-run sixth inning, and the New York Yankees opened the latest installment of baseball’s best rivalry with a 6-3 victory Friday night.

Randy Johnson (5-3) won despite another perplexing start, and rookie Robinson Cano began the big rally with a two-run homer off a wild Tim Wakefield (4-4).

Johnson struck out just three and allowed hits to his final five batters, but Boston managed only one run in the sixth inning, with Cano and Tony Womack throwing out runners at the plate.

Mariano Rivera, who had blown his first two save attempts of the year against Boston, got two outs for his 12th save in 14 chances. He failed in his first two opportunities of the season against the Red Sox, both on the opening homestand, but has been perfect since.

New York, foundering at 11-19 three weeks ago, has won 16 of 18 since then, including nine straight at home to move into second place in the AL East, 3 games behind Baltimore.

Boston, meanwhile, has struggled, losing four straight and falling five games back of the Orioles.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona missed the World Series champions’ previous game at Yankee Stadium on April 6 when he was rushed to the hospital, but he could joke about it Friday afternoon, calling it a “fake heart attack.”

Boston then provided little to smile about. Wakefield walked seven, his highest total in eight years, and the Red Sox, who outhit the Yankees 11-7, went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position during the first five innings.

Jason Varitek started his second straight game with Wakefield on the mound because Doug Mirabelli, the knuckleballer’s regular catcher, is on the disabled list, and opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Derek Jeter tripled and scored on Womack’s groundout in the bottom half to make it 2-1.

Then came the sixth inning, when Boston had five consecutive hits off Johnson but was stifled by the defense of Womack in left and Cano at second base.

Jay Payton doubled over Womack with one out, took third on Mark Bellhorn’s single and scored on Johnny Damon’s single, which ended an 0-for-15 slide and put the Red Sox ahead 3-1.

Edgar Renteria singled sharply to left, and Womack made a strong one-hop throw to catcher Jorge Posada, who let Bellhorn slide into his glove for the tag. David Ortiz then hit a ball toward the right side of second base, and it rolled off Cano’s glove into the outfield. The rookie quickly picked it up and made a one-hop throw to Posada, who let Damon slide into the tag.

Bernie Williams led off the bottom half with a walk, and Cano hit his second career homer in 75 at-bats. As he rounded first after his ball landed in the right-center field bleachers, Cano pumped a fist twice, and he circled the bases so fast he was right behind Williams crossing the plate.

Jeter then singled, Embree relieved and Womack dumped a single into left. With the count 0-1, Sheffield lined the ball into the first row of the upper deck.

Johnson’s fastball consistently reached 96 mph and he even had one at 97 mph, but he failed to overwhelm and has fanned just eight over his last three starts. He allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings, and Tanyon Sturtze, Buddy Groom, Tom Gordon and Rivera finished off Boston.

Rivera relieved with a man on and one out, struck out Varitek, gave up a soft single to Kevin Millar, then threw a called third strike past Bill Mueller.

Wakefield, who had been 3-0 with a 1.34 ERA in his last six regular-season starts against New York, gave up four runs and four hits in five-plus innings.

Notes: Plate umpire Bruce Froemming took a foul ball off a wrist while Bellhorn was batting in the fourth. Froemming’s wrist was wrapped during the middle of the inning and he stayed in the game. … It was the most walks for Wakefield since June 30, 1997, against Florida, and three shy of his career high. … Boston stranded 13. … Sheffiled is 2-for-7 against Embree, both homers.

AP-ES-05-27-05 2237EDT


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