NEW YORK (AP) – Pitching with power and purpose on a healthy ankle this time, Curt Schilling came through with another clutch performance at Yankee Stadium.

Schilling threw eight sharp innings for his first win since returning to Boston’s rotation, and Manny Ramirez busted out of a rare slump with a homer and three RBIs to lead the Red Sox past New York 9-2 Saturday.

“That’s the Schilling that everybody knows,” teammate David Ortiz said.

Playing without offensive catalyst Johnny Damon, the Red Sox piled up 16 hits and rebounded from a sloppy performance in their series-opening 8-4 loss. Boston regained a four-game lead in the AL East over the Yankees, who began the day a half-game behind Cleveland in the wild-card race.

“We’re running out of games,” New York manager Joe Torre said. “This is our playoffs right now. We need to fight our way into the postseason.”

John Olerud also homered off a shaky Shawn Chacon, who was chased during a six-run fourth. The Yankees made two ugly errors in the inning and blew a pair of potential double plays that could have limited the damage.

Back at the scene of his gritty win in Game 6 of last year’s AL championship series, Schilling (6-7) delivered by far his best outing since offseason ankle surgery. He snatched Bernie Williams’ first-inning comebacker with his bare hand, retired his first eight batters before committing a harmless error and did not yield a hit until Jason Giambi’s 28th homer with one out in the fourth.

Schilling struck out six and walked two in his seventh start this year. Slowly working his way back from a dislocated ankle tendon that famously left blood seeping through his sock during the 2004 postseason, the 38-year-old right-hander has been trying to find his All-Star form all year.

“I feel great,” Schilling said after allowing five hits. “Physically, I’ve had no problems. It’s just a combination of performance and confidence.”

Following an inconsistent stint as Boston’s closer, he entered 0-2 with a 7.79 ERA in three starts since returning to the rotation on Aug. 25.

His overall ERA coming in was 6.83 ERA, but he put his struggles on the mound aside recently to help a few victims of Hurricane Katrina. Last weekend, Schilling and his wife, Shonda, paid to fly a New Orleans family of nine to Boston and pledged to provide them with housing for a year.

Schilling got plenty of run support from Boston’s powerful offense. Tony Graffanino moved into Damon’s leadoff spot and got three hits, including a triple. Trot Nixon had a two-run single, and Ortiz added his 123rd RBI.

New York was missing ailing slugger Gary Sheffield and catcher Jorge Posada. Randy Johnson, who turned 42 on Saturday, will start Sunday’s series finale against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

“It’s huge,” Torre said. “You win the first game of the series, you want to win the series.”

Chacon (4-3) retired his first two batters and got ahead 0-2 on Ortiz, but the slugger worked out a walk. Ramirez then drove a 2-2 pitch beyond the retired numbers in left-center and into the Boston bullpen.

It was Ramirez’s first home run in 63 at-bats since Aug. 21 against the Angels. The World Series MVP entered with only five hits in his previous 31 at-bats.

“About time,” Ortiz said. “We need him.”

Olerud homered into the right-field upper deck leading off the fourth. Bill Mueller and Gabe Kapler followed with singles, sending Chacon to the showers after only three-plus innings – his shortest stint in 21 starts for Colorado and New York this season.

“It’s disappointing,” Chacon said. “I felt like I had good stuff when I warmed up, and I didn’t think I pitched badly. I didn’t want to come out of the game.”

Graffanino singled to load the bases, and Edgar Renteria hit a comebacker to reliever Felix Rodriguez. But his throw to the plate was low and wide, and catcher John Flaherty did well just to get a forceout when New York should have had a double play.

It certainly proved costly.

Left fielder Hideki Matsui misjudged Ortiz’s sacrifice fly, breaking back and then sprinting in to try and recover. He dropped the ball for an error as Boston boosted its lead to 4-0 and loaded the bases again.

Ramirez hit an RBI single, Nixon had a two-run single, and another run scored when the Yankees couldn’t turn a double play on Jason Varitek’s RBI grounder. Second baseman Robinson Cano was taken out on a strong slide by Nixon and threw the ball into the seats for an error.

“We just allowed them too many outs in that inning, and they took advantage,” Torre said.

Renteria’s sacrifice fly made it 9-1 in the eighth.

New York scored in the bottom half off Schilling on Williams’ RBI single.

Notes: Sheffield missed his third consecutive game with a strained left thigh muscle. Posada had a jammed right shoulder one day after he was knocked over by Varitek in a home-plate collision. … Damon sat out because of a sore left shoulder. … Yankees starters did not allow a homer in their previous eight home games.

AP-ES-09-10-05 1822EDT

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