"That's how you win -- pitching and defense," Jeter said Friday night after driving in the go-ahead run in an 8-4 win over the Red Sox that opened a big three-game series.
"He just laid into me. Actually, we just collided. It was pretty ugly," Posada said. "It was either through me or around me. He decided to try to go through me."
Jeter hit a two-out single in the fourth that put the Yankees ahead to stay at 4-3, then ranged into the hole at shortstop to force out speedy Johnny Damon at second on Edgar Renteria's grounder in the seventh, helping stymie a comeback attempt.
Alex Rodriguez and Posada homered off David Wells as New York overcame a 3-1 deficit and cut Boston's division lead to three games with a little more than three weeks left in the season. New York remained a half-game back of Cleveland in the wild-card race.
"We can't be thinking in terms of holding our own. We've got to make an impact," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "The only way you can do that is to go out there and win the first game."
Rodriguez, Posada and Jason Giambi had three hits apiece for the Yankees, who scored single runs in each of the first four innings, then chased Wells (12-7) during a four-run sixth.
Barely an afterthought when the Yankees left spring training, Small improved to 7-0 overall, including 5-0 in six starts as a fill-in. He allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings, becoming the first pitcher to win his first seven decisions with the Yankees since Doug Bird in 1980 and '81.
He needed 61 pitches to get through the first three innings, then just 27 in the next three. Small received a standing ovation when he came out of the game, tipping his cap to the sellout crowd of 55,024 as he walked to the dugout, waving to the fans, then tipping his hat again.
"I can't describe it. I can't put it into words," Small said. "Somebody told me they were playing, 'It's a Small World' when I was walking off. I didn't even hear it. All I heard was how loud the crowd was cheering for me. That was kind of cool. That was kind of neat."
Boston tied a season high with four errors -- by Tony Graffanino at second, Damon in center, Renteria at shortstop and Varitek behind the plate.
"You don't want to make a big mistake. Those guys always take advantage of that," said major-league RBI leader David Ortiz, who went 0-for-4 with a walk. "I've been watching them for a long time. You have to play your best against them. It doesn't matter how bad they've been playing or how bad they've been struggling. You've got to bring your 'A' game against them all the time."
Wells, 45-19 at Yankee Stadium during the regular season coming in, allowed six runs -- five earned -- and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. Chad Bradford followed and allowed RBI singles to Bernie Williams and Rodriguez as the Yankees pulled away.
"We play great at home. We haven't played well on the road," Wells said.
New York got a first-inning run when Giambi hit a two-out infield single to Graffanino, who had been shifted into right field, and the second baseman's throw skipped by Kevin Millar, who was just getting to the first-base bag, for an error that allowed Rodriguez to score from second. Instead of backing up on the play, Wells remained in the infield.
Boston took a 3-1 lead in the second on Damon's sacrifice fly and an opposite-field drive by Renteria that bounced off the right-field wall and past Matt Lawton for a two-run double.
Jeter made the throw to the plate after catching Matsui's throw with a jump, and Rodriguez tied the score in the bottom half with a pop-fly homer to right, his fifth home run this year against Boston and his eighth in 67 regular-season at-bats against Wells.
Posada reached on an infield single in the sixth and scored from first as Damon let Robinson Cano's single skip off his glove and Renteria's relay throw slipped out of his hand and bounced about 10 feet away.
"He needed an oxygen tank there. It was kind of funny to watch," Jeter said.
After the singles by Rodriguez and Williams, Giambi singled off reliever Mike Myers' glove to drive in another run.
Boston got a run in the seventh when Cano misplayed Trot Nixon's potential inning-ending double-play grounder for an error. With the bases loaded and Tom Gordon on the mound, Varitek followed with another grounder to Cano, who smoothly started a double play. Mariano Rivera got three outs to end it.
"We made it a lot tougher on ourselves," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We made too many mistakes."
- Small did not allow a hit in 23 at-bats with runners on base before Manny Ramirez's infield single in the first, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
- A fan on the first-base side was hit near the right eye by Damon's broken bat in the seventh inning.