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Rapid reaction: Yankees 3, Red Sox 2

BOSTON -- Just under a month after taking sole possession of first place on July 7, the Red Sox are now looking up in the American League East standings.

And with Saturday’s match-up heavily tilted toward the Yankees -- let’s have a quick show of hands from all of you true believers who think John Lackey can beat CC Sabathia -- the New Yorkers have a pretty fair chance of leaving town as sole occupants of the top spot.

The Bombers squeezed all of their scoring into one inning -- a three-run rally in the sixth that began with a walk to Alex Rodriguez’s stand-in, one Eduardo Nunez -- but their bullpen made that one outburst sufficient for the Yankees’ eighth straight win, a 3-2 decision before 38,006 in the Fens on Friday night.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s decision to go to his pen early -- he brought in left-hander Boone Logan for Bartolo Colon with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth -- proved a pivotal moment when Logan whiffed Adrian Gonzalez on three pitches.

Until the ninth, the Red Sox had just one more base-runner, on Carl Crawford’s two-out double off Logan in the sixth, but Cory Wade retired Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a bouncer to first. David Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, Rafael Soriano a 1-2-3 eighth, and Mariano Rivera finished off the Sox for his 29th save.

Crawford beat out an infield single to short with one out in the ninth, but Rivera punched out Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a called third strike, and then did the same to Josh Reddick.

An RBI double by Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz’s 21st home run had given the Sox a 2-0 lead, and with Jon Lester striking out seven Yankees in the first five innings and the Sox playing superb defense behind him, Lester appeared primed to extend his mastery over the pinstriped set.

But Nunez drew a full-count walk to open the sixth, and Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson followed with back-to-back singles, Nunez scoring on Granderson’s hit to make it 2-1. Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases, but the tying run scored on Robinson Cano’s double-play grounder and Nick Swisher doubled past a diving Kevin Youkilis at third to make it 3-2.

The Bombers’ win was only their second in 10 games against the Sox this season. Boston had won the first eight meetings between the teams in 2009, but on this very weekend two years ago, the Yankees swept four straight from the Sox in the Bronx.

Celebrity sightings: Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler in a brown fedora behind the plate. Woody Harrelson. Larry David (Pass the Palestinian chicken, please). And in the pressbox, an immortal, Gay Talese, with a press pass from the New Yorker.