Rapid reaction: Red Sox 8, Yankees 3

NEW YORK -- Because the start was delayed by rain for 3 hours and 32 minutes, they played this game at a time usually reserved for the showing of those other cult classics. Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is Spinal Tap. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

This was Red Sox and Yankees: Beckett vs CC, Part III. Part epic, part Western, part Spanish novella. Award-winning cast. Big-screen themes: heroes and villains, suspense and revenge, vindication and triumph.

So what if it started at 10:32 p.m. and finished at 1:43 a.m.? If you were here and didn’t like it, you had the option of going home and getting a free ticket for another show this summer, courtesy of the Yankees.

But those who chose to set aside a good night’s sleep and tomorrow’s obligations -- work and school, to name two -- were rewarded with high drama. And, for the dedicated followers of the Boston Baseball Club, Inc., a spectacular climax that contained all the special effects it needed in one coiled band of Dominican fury: David Ortiz.

And that should be the lasting image from this one, an exultant Ortiz pounding his gloved hands again and again at second base, then raising his right hand in a gesture of what -- defiance? anger? pride? -- after delivering the crowning blow in a stunning seven-run, seventh-inning rally that left the Yankees in a state of destruction.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi, already reeling from the news that setup man Joba Chamberlain had a torn ligament in his elbow and was lost for the season, had been asked before the game if the Yankees had to win Thursday if they intended to retain any semblance of dignity. The question was prompted by the Yankees having lost seven of their first eight meetings to the Sox, including all five games here.

“I don’t know if I would use the word dignity,’’ Girardi had replied, “but I think it’s important we win, I do. It’s frustrating to lose five in a row to the Red Sox, your biggest foe. That’s frustrating. We need to win. That’s the bottom line.’’

Instead, the bottom fell out of what had been the Yankees’ only lead of the series, a 2-0 advantage fashioned by Curtis Granderson’s two-run home run in the first inning after Sox starter Josh Beckett hit Derek Jeter in the elbow with his second pitch of the game.

CC Sabathia had made that lead stand up in seemingly effortless fashion, holding the Sox scoreless on two hits through the first six innings. But in the seventh, the Red Sox drove Sabathia from the mound with a relentless barrage of hits. A single by Ortiz. A triple down the right-field line by Jed Lowrie. A double by Mike Cameron, a longtime Sabathia nemesis. A single by Jason Varitek. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury. A single by Adrian Gonzalez.

Girardi, his bullpen ravaged by injuries, held onto the slender hope that Sabathia could hold the barricades alone. Instead, it crumbled beneath the Yankees’ ace, who was carried off on his own shield, four runs in and two more runners still on base.

The Sox did not let up against reliever David Robertson. Kevin Youkilis singled in a fifth run and then Ortiz collected his second hit of the inning, a double that reached the fence in left-center on one bounce and touched off Ortiz’s celebration of his own might.

Ortiz had become the reluctant flashpoint of this series when Girardi complained about the flamboyant way the Red Sox DH had flung his bat after a home run Tuesday night. By the next day, Girardi had moved on, but when Ortiz hit another home run Wednesday night and was prodded to address the same line of inquiry he’d addressed after the first game, he showed his teeth, dropping a few expletives as he made clear he would brook no such questions any further.

It also came to light, after Sox pitcher Jon Lester had kneecapped Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin Tuesday night, that the Yankees had never hit Ortiz with a pitch in 160 regular-season games. The call for retaliation became all but inescapable after Beckett hit Jeter and two innings later hit Alex Rodriguez in the hip.

Sabathia took matters into his own hands in the fourth, hitting Ortiz in the meat part of his thigh, a textbook display of how to settle scores without jeopardizing anyone’s life and limb. Ortiz walked slowly to first base after he was hit, a hint of a smile forming on his lips.

But in the end, he had the last word, as did Beckett, who emerged triumphant for the third straight time against the Yankees and Sabathia by going seven innings and allowing just four hits, striking out six.

The Red Sox were a team still in search of an identity when they arrived in the Bronx in mid-May, still three games below .500 and four games behind the Yankees. They swept the Yankees then, and came back this week to sweep the Yankees again, bookends of a streak of 19 wins in 25 games that has catapulted them two games ahead of the Bombers in the AL East and to the best record in the AL (36-26).

They head to Toronto winners of six straight, their season now swaying to the beat of Ortiz’s gloved claps -- Boom. Boom. Boom.