BOSTON — There's a little fight left in the Boston Red Sox, after all.
Bill Mueller hit a two-run homer off Mariano Rivera to cap a three-run ninth inning and lead the Red Sox to an 11-10 victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday. The shot brought the Red Sox pouring out of their dugout for the second time -- the first was during a bench-clearing brawl after the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez was hit by a pitch in the third.
"It just shows you how much both teams were hyped up," said Rodriguez, among four players ejected and forced to watch from their clubhouses. "Once you're in the moment competing against a team you really don't like ... you can't really control your emotions."
Kevin Millar had four hits and former Yankee Ramiro Mendoza (1-0) earned the win with two hitless innings. Boston rallied from a 9-4 deficit despite four errors.
The game, which started after a 54-minute delay, almost was postponed. The grounds crew wanted to call it off, but Boston players argued for it to go on despite wet grounds -- some Yankees, told the game wouldn't be played, had already showered.
"The Red Sox wanted to play today," Millar said.
With Boston trailing, 10-8, Nomar Garciaparra doubled to lead off the ninth, Trot Nixon hit a long out to the warning track and Millar, who homered three times Friday, singled to score Garciaparra. Mueller homered into the bullpen -- only the second homer this year off Rivera, who had converted 23 consecutive save chances.
"I was biting my nails the whole time," said Boston catcher Jason Varitek, who sparked the brawl when he hit Rodriguez in the face. "It was the hardest game I've had to watch. I think my head almost hit the ceiling in the locker room. It was awesome."
The Red Sox, who also brawled with the Yankees during last year's playoffs, were two outs from falling 10 1/2 games behind New York in the AL East; they have never come back from more than 10 games to win the division.
Instead, Boston is 8 1/2 games back heading into tonight's series finale.
"Our rivalry is probably -- not probably, it is -- like no other rivalry," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "It's an emotional game. You'd like to believe you can play like a board game, but you can't. There are people involved. There are emotions. It's a high-energy situation."
The Red Sox were trailing, 3-0, and hitless before Bronson Arroyo plunked Rodriguez, prompting the AL most valuable player to stare at the mound as he moved slowly toward first. Varitek positioned himself in front of Rodriguez and the two began jawing before Varitek, still wearing his mask, pushed the Yankee star in the face.
The dugouts and bullpens emptied.
"I told him, in choice words, to get to first base," Varitek said. "And then it changed from him yelling at Bronson to yelling at each other, and then things got out of hand."
Several scrums erupted, with Gabe Kapler battling Yankee starter Tanyon Sturtze, soon joined by Nixon and David Ortiz. Kapler and Kenny Lofton also were ejected.