BOSTON (AP) – There was no blood on Curt Schilling’s sock when he faced the New York Yankees this time.

No bite on his splitter, either.

With the sore-ankled hero of Boston’s 2004 World Series run debuting in his new job as a reliever, Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer to break a ninth-inning tie and New York beat the Red Sox 8-6 Thursday night.

The Yankees won for the eighth time in nine tries to pull within 1 games of first place in the AL East, the closest they’ve been to the division lead since winning at Fenway Park on April 13.

“I believe this game, we don’t win it the first two or three months of the year,” Rodriguez said. “It shows you how far we’ve come.”

Cameras flashed and the sold-out crowd stood to cheer for Schilling in the sixth when he went out to the bullpen, where he’s been shifted to fill a need while closer Keith Foulke recovers from knee surgery. The fans gave him another standing ovation when he came in to pitch the ninth.

But Schilling (1-3) gave up a dart of a double to Gary Sheffield to start the inning – his third extra-base hit of the game – then Rodriguez homered over the bleachers in left-center on the first pitch.

“I don’t know if I liked it, I just swung hard in case I hit it,” Rodriguez said.

Schilling, who had been on the disabled list since April 23, retired the next three batters to complete his first relief appearance since a late-season tuneup in 2002.

“It was set up to be a situation that was great, if I did what I was supposed to do,” Schilling said. “I made two big mistakes back-to-back. … It’s frustrating, disappointing.”

Tom Gordon (3-3) pitched one hitless inning, and Mariano Rivera struck out all three batters in the ninth for his 21st save in 23 tries; both blown saves were against Boston during the season’s opening series. Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams and Sheffield also homered for the Yankees. Schilling has struggled to recover from ankle surgery, and when Foulke went on the disabled list the Red Sox decided to put their ace in the bullpen to plug the gap. He had not relieved regularly since 1992, when the Phillies first promoted him to the rotation.

Schilling proved no better than Foulke, but Boston manager Terry Francona isn’t ready to give up on the experiment.

“The only way to do that is to put the guys where you think they belong and let them go,” he said. “With the game on the line, the more he pitches with health … he’s going to be very good.”

Giambi’s homer was his sixth in seven games, and Sheffield homered for the third consecutive game to go with two doubles. Williams connected off starter Bronson Arroyo in the second.

Schilling threw a 91 mph fastball to Sheffield on the first pitch, but his splitters stayed up and Sheffield sent one on a 2-2 count off the left-center portion of the Green Monster scoreboard.

Rodriguez followed with a mammoth shot over the camera in straightaway center.

Johnny Damon led off the first with a single to extend his hitting streak to 26 games – most in the majors this season. He stole second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on David Ortiz’s single.

Manny Ramirez walked, then Trot Nixon homered down the right-field line to make it 4-0. Ortiz homered in the seventh to break a 5-5 tie, but Jorge Posada doubled to start the eighth and scored on pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra’s double to tie it at 6.

Notes: The Yankees put RHP Chien-Ming Wang on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder and scratched him from Friday’s scheduled start. They purchased the contract of RHP Tim Redding from Triple-A Columbus to start Friday. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated infielder Eric Crozier for assignment. … Three injured RHPs – Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright – worked out at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. … Chad Bradford, acquired by the Red Sox for disgruntled outfielder Jay Payton, made his first appearance of the year after missing the first half because of back surgery.

AP-ES-07-14-05 2338EDT

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