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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Red Sox, Yanks start huge series

Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees said he always expected that Boston would ultimately stand in New York's way. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

The last time the Boston Red Sox visited New York’s Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter was hurtling headfirst into the stands, Nomar Garciaparra was sulking in the dugout and New York was pulling away in the American League East.

A lot has changed since then.

Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek brawled at Boston’s Fenway Park, Garciaparra got traded, and Kevin Brown of the Yankees punched himself out of the pennant race.

Oh, and this: With Boston back in the Bronx this weekend, the Red Sox are also right back in the division race. Boston trails by 3 1/2 games.

“I think both teams have felt in some way that they were going to have to go through each other to get to the next level,” Rodriguez said. “Whether you’re up by 20 games or by four games, the bottom line is that you’re going to have to look each other in the eye and beat each other when it counts.”

With six meetings left, the rivalry resumes tonight when unbeaten Orlando Hernandez faces Boston’s Bronson Arroyo.

“It should be fun. We’re in a good spot,” Red Sox leadoff hitter Johnny Damon said.

Dodgers fan beats the system

Michael Mahan figured it was worth spending $25,000 for Los Angeles baseball tickets — especially when it bought him the entire section at Dodger Stadium where he thought Barry Bonds’ 700th home run ball might land.

But now it appears Bonds will reach that milestone in the coming days so Mahan, a lifelong Los Angeles fan, has been selling most of those tickets in the right-field pavilion.

Mahan, 28, decided six months ago to purchase every seat in the section for two of the three games against the San Francisco Giants that end the season in October. He was hoping that Bonds would join Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in the 700 home run club.

Mahan has been reselling most of the 6,458 tickets for as much as $15 each — much more than the $3.50 the Dodgers’ front office gave him as part of a standard group-discount rate.

“An individual found a way to manipulate the system, and it won’t happen again,” Gary Miereanu, the Dodgers’ VP of communications, told the Los Angeles Times.

Mulder’s case worthy of X-Files

There’s a long-running joke in Oakland’s clubhouse: Whether Mark Mulder just threw a one-hitter or got blasted in a key game for his club’s playoff hopes, he always says the same thing.

“I felt good out there,” he said again on Wednesday.

Trouble is, Mulder didn’t look good while allowing 11 hits and a season-high eight runs in a 10-3 loss to the Texas Rangers. Oakland’s star left-hander hasn’t been himself since shortly after the All-Star break, when he was a strong favorite for the Cy Young award.

Mulder won 11 consecutive decisions earlier in the season, emerging as one of the majors’ most dominant and durable starters with the most impressive stretch of his five-year career.

But as late summer gave way to fall, his dominance faded in a series of bad outings for the A.L. West leaders. He’s 0-1 with a 7.20 earned-run average in his last four starts, with his ERA rising to a season-high 4.13.

Clearing the bases

Todd Zeile will strap on his catcher’s gear one last time. Zeile, who intends to retire at the end of this season, will start behind the plate for the first time in 14 years tonight when the New York Mets visit Pittsburgh. Zeile hasn’t caught since 1990 with St. Louis… . San Diego quickly found a replacement for injured shortstop Khalil Greene, acquiring Alex Gonzalez from the Montreal Expos for a player to be named or cash… . Toronto ace Roy Halladay threw 45 pitches in a simulated game and is expected to start Tuesday against the Yankees… . Boston officials said they hope to add up to 2,000 seats to Fenway Park after next season in a proposal that will be unveiled to the neighborhood and the city over the next few month. Built in 1912, Fenway is the oldest and smallest park in the majors, with a current capacity of 36,298.