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Stewart's wall leap may have saved game

NEW YORK --Shannon Stewart fought off the fans, pulled down
the ball and perhaps preserved the win for the Minnesota Twins.

No Jeffrey Maier to save the New York Yankees this time.

Stewart's leaping grab of Hideki Matsui's ninth-inning drive
helped the Twins hold off New York to win 3-1 in Tuesday's AL
playoff opener.

"Who knows what would have happened at that point?" Yankees
manager Joe Torre said.

Bernie Williams had led off the inning with a single off Eddie
Guardado, and Matsui probably would have wound up with a double if
Stewart had failed to make the catch and the ball had bounced off
the upper part of wall.

Stewart, acquired from Toronto during the All-Star break, had to
fight off the sun in the first early afternoon postseason game at
Yankee Stadium since 1981.

"I just went back on the ball," Stewart said. "It was a tough
sun out there. I picked it up at the last minute."

Stewart hit the wall and fell to the field. It wasn't
immediately clear whether he held on to the ball.

"I saw it go in his glove," Guardado said. "I was watching
closely, believe me. Then I saw him hit the wall, and I was hoping
he held it."

As Stewart went back, several fans reached out. It was
reminiscent of the 1996 AL championship series opener, when Maier,
a 12-year-old fan, leaned over wall, reached above Baltimore right
fielder Tony Tarasco and caught a fly ball in the eighth inning.

Derek Jeter was given a tying home run on the play, and New York
went on to win on Bernie Williams' home run in the 11th.

"The only thing I was worried about was that with the fans
reaching out, he might get poked in the eye," Minnesota right
fielder Jacque Jones said.

Torii Hunter, the Twins' center fielder, feared the ball might
have traveled too far for Stewart to get to it.

"I was actually praying," Hunter said. "It just started
flying over there. It started out like a pop fly, and then the wind
got it or something and it kept going and going. It was a great
catch."

Aaron Boone followed with a double and Alfonso Soriano hit an
RBI infield single with two outs before Guardado retired Nick Johnson on a game-ending groundout.

"If Matsui's ball drops in, then maybe it's a different game,"
the Yankees' Jorge Posada said.