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Yankees complete four-game sweep, tie Red Sox

Don Zimmer, Carlton Fisk and Rick Burleson, left to right, watched as the Red Sox lost their fourth straight to the Yankees.

Frank O'Brien/Globe Staff

Don Zimmer, Carlton Fisk and Rick Burleson, left to right, watched as the Red Sox lost their fourth straight to the Yankees.

Historians can mull over what happened. “We took a shellacking,” Don Zimmer was to say. Germany vs. Poland. Yale 54, Harvard 0. Roosevelt-Landon.

Comedians can pass out AAA guides describing the best foliage routes the first week of October and compare it to being opposed for re-election by a Prohibition Party candidate or dedicate it all to the 60th anniversary of the last time Boston had a world baseball champion.

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But it is gone. Over. Four straight. Yesterday’s 7-4 Yankee victory was like watching the last 900 seconds of a football game tick off. The Earl Scruggs Review-18 singles and seven walks-finished the Yankees’ weekend humiliation of the Red Sox. The line now is “it’s a new, 20-game season.” So, as the one man Boston could ever want to start a new, 20-game season, Luis Tiant, goes against Jim Palmer and the Orioles tonight, the question is: can the Red Sox pull their minds and bodies together or was this weekend indeed the last days of Tsar Nickolas?

It doesn’t take Branch Rickey to know that what was once a 14-game lead is now a flat-out, dead-heat tie in the American League East (also for the best record in baseball). It doesn’t take Connie Mack to know that the Yankees, from the brilliant defense of Graig Nettles and Bucky Dent to the offensive heroics of Lou Piniella and Willie Randolph are playing as well as the game can be played-22-5 with a 2.09 ERA in their last 27 games, while Boston is 2-9, 26 errors in its last 11. Tonight one of the teams will be in second place, the Yankees are idle).

El Tiante and Palmer have faced each other 10 times, Tiant winning four, Palmer three. “They (the Yankees) are a money club,” Rick Burleson said after yesterday’s Quaker meeting. The Red Sox ...

By the time Bobby Sprowl had nervously walked four Yankees in his ONE- THIRD of an inning and Bob Stanley had gotten racked in a bizarre three- inning, 10-hit performance, people were asking for “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” on the megaboard. The linescore was Yankees 42-67-5, Red Sox 9-21-12. Hell, last year Boston hit 16 homers in three games here and outscored the Yankees, 30-9, which tells you something about Boston’s Gorman Thomas Offense (67 hits and 42 runs) and the Yankees hit the Wall once and went over it once).

Piniella had 10 hits, Thurman Munson eight and Thurman hasn’t changed. In one at-bat he gave a ball to the kid in the stands and smashed his bat over the dugout, then afterwards threw a plate of ravioli at a photographer. Randolph was on base 16 times.

Nettles, who roamed third base like Ray Nitschke, had six hits and took away 10 more, the only man who closes the shortstop and up-the-middle holes simultaneously. New York hit .396 and Boston made 12 errors. Not one Boston starting pitcher finished the fourth. Only one got five outs. 14 pitching changes. George Scott is 0 for 25. Baserunners have 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts since Aug. 13. It’s become so bad that it’s hard to separate what is physical and what is psychological. But it has to be turned around with El Tiante.

Yesterday belongs in the Bob Quinn or Mike Higgins eras. Should Zimmer have started Sprowl, with 1 ONE-HALF years’ professional and one game’s experience instead of Tiant? Sprowl did something pitchers go careers without doing - walked Mickey Rivers on four pitches - and walked Randolph. He got Munson to ground into a double play, but Reggie Jackson hit a ball off the end of his bat through the middle, 1-0. Two walks later, and Zimmer brought on Bob Stanley. “I didn’t throw right, that’s all,” Sprowl said. As barroom demagogues ripped Zimmer for taking him out so soon, Zimmer replied, “I didn’t want him to get into any more trouble.” Stanley’s first pitch was roped into right by Nettles, it was 3-0, soon to be 6-0, and Ed Figueroa (16-9) and Rich Gossage (23 saves) plowed through.

The Red Sox got a homer from Fred Lynn, to left. They got two runs on Carlton Fisk’s league-leading 38th double and Garry Hancock’s fly ball. Jack Brohamer’s double got in a run. But in the five hits, the one single came with two outs in the ninth-Butch Hobson’s rope off the Wall.

Meanwhile, as the Yankees took extra bases and hit cutoff men, the Red Sox wantered around, lost. Stanley didn’t cover first when the beleaguered Scott made a superb diving stop. Fisk couldn’t throw Rivers out with time in the first. Hancock misjudged a fly ball. Burleson, trying too hard, had one ball after another tick off his glove. Stanley slipped fielding a bunt. Another Fisk throw kicked off. He didn’t throw one. “So we got whipped,” said Zimmer. Someone asked him who had the advantage in the 20-game season. “I’ll ask you,” Zimmer replied.

The Yankees have left, and what they did was as embarrassing as it was boring. Their injured-Munson, Jackson-played and played well. Boston finally got Jerry Remy back, at 33 SEVEN-EIGHTHS RPM. Dwight Evans may be healthy again. And Luis Tiant faces Jim Palmer.

“We’ve got to kick ourselves in the butt,” said Burleson. When they tried this past weekend, they missed. Now there are 20 games left and for the first time since May 23 someone else can claim first place (and the best record in baseball). Now the comedians and historians must sit down. Luis Tiant and Mike Torrez have the podium.

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