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Sunday September 2, 2001
Yankees 1 @ Red Sox 0

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Gameday Pictures (New!)

BOSTON (AP) -- Mike Mussina came within one strike of pitching the first perfect game in the 91-year history of Fenway Park, his bid broken up by pinch-hitter Carl Everett's clean single Sunday night in the New York Yankees' 1-0 win over Boston.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mussina threw two quick strikes to Everett. Then Everett, batting for Joe Oliver, took a ball before hitting a soft liner to left-center field.

Mussina stood on the mound, tilted his head slightly and gave a half-smile as he watched the ball land well in front of charging left fielder Chuck Knoblauch.

Mussina retired Trot Nixon on a grounder to finish his fourth career one-hitter. This marked the third time in his career that Mussina (14-11) had taken a perfect-game bid into the eighth inning.

Matching Mussina nearly pitch-for-pitch was David Cone (8-4), the last person to throw a perfect game. But a ninth-inning error set up the only run of the game, and the AL East-leading Yankees sent Boston to its eighth straight loss.

"I know it's only happened 15 times or so in history," Mussina said. "I was that close again."

Mussina struck out 13 and allowed just four balls out of the infield. He was bidding for the 15th perfect game in modern history.

The Red Sox did not come close to a hit until pinch-hitter Troy O'Leary opened the ninth with a sharp grounder. First baseman Clay Bellinger, who scored the lone run as a pinch-runner in the top of the ninth, made a diving, backhanded stop and flipped to Mussina for the out.

Mussina struck out Lou Merloni before Everett singled. Everett was in a 3-for-32 slump and just 1-for-9 with seven strikeouts lifetime against Mussina until the single.

The crowd of 33,734 stood in silence as Mussina took the mound for the ninth.

Cone allowed a leadoff single to Tino Martinez in the ninth and Bellinger ran for him. With one out, Paul O'Neill hit a hard grounder for a potential double-play ball, but Merloni let the ball get past him for an error.

With runners at first and third, Enrique Wilson doubled down the right-field line. Cone left to a standing ovation and reliever Derek Lowe came in to boos.

The Red Sox had a chance to break up the perfect game when Manny Ramirez had a 3-1 count leading off the eighth. He fouled off a pitch before popping out to backpedaling shortstop Derek Jeter.

New York's three-game sweep handed Boston its longest losing streak since June 1994. The Red Sox fell nine games behind the Yankees.

The loss had to be even more painful for the Red Sox because they tried to sign Mussina as a free agent last offseason before he chose the Yankees and their $88.5 million, six-year contract. Boston then signed Ramirez, who struck out twice.

Typically, Mussina received little run support.

Last season, Baltimore scored 3.71 runs per game for him, the lowest of any starter in the AL. He had a 3.79 ERA but only an 11-15 record.

This season, Mussina entered Sunday's game with support of 4.1 runs per game in his previous 28 starts.

The last no-hitter at Fenway Park was by Boston's Dave Morehead on Sept. 16, 1965, in a 2-0 win over Cleveland.

Boston's Ernie Shore was on the mound for 27 straight outs at Fenway Park on June 23, 1917. But he wasn't credited with a perfect game because he came in after Red Sox starter Babe Ruth was ejected after a leadoff walk.

Mussina had taken perfect games into the eighth two other times. On Aug. 4, 1998, Detroit's Frank Catalanotto doubled with two outs in the eighth. On May 30, 1997, Cleveland's Sandy Alomar J. singled with one out in the ninth.

Mussina also had a no-hit bid broken up against Milwaukee on June 25, 1997, on Jose Valentin's leadoff single in the eighth.

On Sunday night, Mussina was sharp from the start.

He struck out Boston's first two batters, Trot Nixon and Mike Lansing, then retired Izzy Alcantara on an easy liner to Jeter. Then Mussina struck out the side in the second, getting Ramirez, Dante Bichette and Brian Daubach.

He didn't strike out anyone in the third, but breezed through it as Shea Hillenbrand, Merloni and Joe Oliver all grounded out. In the fourth, Nixon grounded to second before Lansing and Alcantara struck out.

And in the fifth, Mussina caught Ramirez looking, got Bichette to ground out and fanned fanned Daubach looking. That gave Mussina nine strikeouts in five innings without allowing a ball out of the infield.

That finally happened in the sixth with two routine fly balls, and Mussina struck out Oliver.

Cone, meanwhile, was pitching his best game of the year even though New York had runners on in seven of his first eight innings. He allowed just five hits and no runs in that stretch while striking out eight and walking two.

Game notes
Three of Boston's starters were with Pawtucket of the International League less than a week ago. Merloni was called up Wednesday, Alcantara on Friday and Oliver on Saturday. ... With a 1-1 count on Nixon in the seventh, a spectator ran on the field and slid into second base. He then fell on the dirt between first and second before security personnel grabbed him. Nixon then grounded out to first baseman Martinez.