Aceves in jam? No sweat

NEW YORK -- Alfredo Aceves looks like a guy with a tiny lawn sprinkler built inside his cap. It can't be just perspiration. Even the late lamented Dennys Reyes, memorably nicknamed "The Big Sweat" by Mike Cameron, didn't leak the way Aceves was Wednesday night, admittedly a hot night in the Bronx (90 degrees at game time).

Aceves gave up hits to the first two batters he faced when he relieved Tim Wakefield in the sixth. But when the Yankees turned up the heat the most -- one run in, the bases loaded and Derek Jeter at the plate in the sixth inning -- Aceves was a regular "Refresca Jose," if you'll excuse an awkward Spanish translation of "Joe Cool."

Aceves induced Jeter to roll to third baseman Kevin Youkilis for an inning-ending double play, then continued to show no mercy to his former pinstriped teammates, striking out Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano in 3 2/3 very impressive innings of relief work.

On a day when the Yankees announced setup man Joba Chamberlain is expected to miss at least three weeks with a strained flexor muscle in his right arm, Aceves' well-lubricated labors, for which he was awarded a save, were yet the latest reminder to Yankees brass that they might have goofed when they elected to nontender him a contract after last season.

And with Bobby Jenks going on the 15-day disabled list with back tightness, Aceves showed off his versatility on a night the Sox cobbled together their seventh win in eight games against the Yankees with two pitchers who ranked low on the depth chart when the season began.

Wakefield, who was not scheduled to pitch in the Bronx until Clay Buchholz was pushed back a couple of days with back problems of his own, is acting like a kid again, which generally isn't advisable for most middle-aged men but looks just right for the 44-year-old Wakefield. The knuckleballer even introduced some gymnastics into his act Wednesday night, taking a tumble over a headfirst-sliding Brett Gardner at first base after chugging over as fast as his chugging knees could take him.

Wakefield had a 7-1 lead at the time, and that unscheduled fall might have taken something out of him, as he was nicked for a couple more runs in the fifth and hit a batter and walked another before Terry Francona lifted him in the sixth. But his work was sufficient to earn him his 182d win with the Red Sox -- just 10 short of the franchise record -- and his 196th overall, which ranks him No. 1 among active pitchers.

And the Red Sox, with their fifth straight win, moved a game ahead of the Yankees in the American League East and are looking every bit like a team built to create some separation, although Yankees ace CC Sabathia might provide a temporary roadblock Thursday night when he faces Josh Beckett.

The Sox were three games under .500 (17-20) when they arrived in the Bronx less than a month ago. Then they swept the Yanks, the start of an 18-6 stretch that has obliterated their bad start.

Just as they did Tuesday night against Freddy Garcia, who lasted just 1 2/3 innings, the Sox hung a 3-spot in the first inning on A.J. Burnett, two runs scoring on David Ortiz's 15th home run. And just to make sure Yankees manager Joe Girardi wouldn't take offense, Ortiz politely laid down his bat after undressing Burnett.

The Sox scored three more in the fourth and chased Burnett in the sixth. Home runs by Carl Crawford and J.D. Drew in the eighth tacked on extra runs.