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Baseball notes

LEADING OFF

The Red Sox are baseball's biggest roadside attraction. On its tour through 12 cities, the self-styled posse of scruffy idiots is leading Major League Baseball in road attendance, a category the Yankees have won the past three seasons.

The fundamental reason is easy: The Red Sox, an increasingly successful team, won the World Series last year for the first time in 86 years, building on a legendary, if vexed, history that has made them even more fetching in victory.

Major League Baseball was unable to confirm if the Red Sox had ever before won the road crown, but their success this year gave them one more edge over the Yankees, whom they also lead in the American League East.

"Red Sox Nation is alive and well, and indeed, national," said Larry Lucchino, the team's president and chief executive. "Unquestionably, the postseason drama and postseason success of 2003 and 2004 created a resurgence in Red Sox Nation."

Through Wednesday's games, Boston's 56 road dates averaged 38,673 in attendance, more than the Yankees' 38,140 average in 51 games. The Yankees have the record for road attendance, 3.3 million, set last year. — New York Times News Service

NEWS AND NOTES

Cincinnati Reds players rallied around a 6-year-old boy after his grandfather collapsed in the stands last week. While paramedics were working on the grandfather, a security officer took the boy to the Reds' bullpen. The Reds did not release the name of the grandfather, who died Wednesday night of an apparent heart attack. The boy, identified as Antonio Perez, sat with players for the last two innings of the game, and Ken Griffey Jr. went and got him when the game ended. The boy participated in the Reds' high-fives celebrating their 8-5 victory over Atlanta, and he then joined the players in the clubhouse.

Albert Pujols of St. Louis became the first player in major league history to hit 30 home runs in each of his first five seasons, connecting in the first inning off the Braves' John Smoltz on Friday night.

Interim Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo wants to give SS Miguel Tejada a day off, but Tejada has a consecutive games streak on the line (864 entering Friday night).

BY THE NUMBERS

50 — Number of hits Milwaukee had during a three-game series in New York last week.

52 — Number of at-bats without striking out for the Marlins' Mike Lowell before striking out Friday.

270 — Number of career victories by the Mets' Tom Glavine after Friday night's win over the Cubs.

FROM THE WIRE

Well, at least that mystery is settled. Now we understand why the Giants are paying $18 million to Barry Bonds this season and next.

For entertainment purposes only.

But my, what entertainment it is. Bonds' strategy is working magnificently. If he had simply said during the spring that he was sitting out 2005, we would be focused entirely on the Giants' miserable season. Instead, with Bonds giving us a daily knee-fluid conversation starter, we're having more fun than a barrel of Palmeiros.

And Bonds is having more fun than any of us. This week's developments cleared up any question about that.

Remember, Bonds now lives in Beverly Hills. He has obviously picked up a few tips about how to manipulate headlines. Perhaps he is being home-schooled by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston's agents, who have brilliantly managed to keep their clients on tabloid covers for 22 consecutive weeks. They're together. They're apart. They're melancholy. She still loves him! He's in a new movie! She's got a project in development!

Same goes for Bonds. He is playing us like a ballpark banjo. The latest twist occurred Thursday when, on his Web site, Bonds pronounced himself "optimistic" about his recovery and said "if the doctors give me the OK to play, I will play."

That was an interesting statement, considering that on Monday, Bonds had told Major League Baseball's site almost exactly the opposite — saying he was down in the dumps because he almost surely wouldn't play until 2006. The next day, Bonds' personal orthopedist said there was no "definitive answer" about whether Barry would return by the end of the season. Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News

QUOTABLE

"I don't know what it is. We work hard . . . but when it comes to the game, it's nothing." Ron Gardenhire, Twins manager, on Minnesota's recent struggles.