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Hernandez boosts chances for post-season spot

9/6/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Orlando Hernandez was happy that he felt healthy
and he had his control.

El Duque boosted his chances for a spot in the New York Yankees'
postseason rotation, giving up three runs in seven innings in a 9-3
victory over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.

"I have to continue working hard,'' he said after winning for
just the third time in his last 10 starts. "It was tough being on
the DL.''

Hernandez, who had two stints on the disabled list earlier this
season, has struggled with his control recently. After walking 14
batters in his past two starts, Hernandez (8-4) walked none on
Thursday.

"That was the real good news,'' he said.

Hernandez was also pleased that he pitched relatively well and
got the win despite allowing five doubles.

"Three of the five doubles were in the middle of the plate,''
he said.

Raul Mondesi homered, doubled and drove in three runs as the
Yankees opened a season-high 9{-game lead over Boston in the AL
East.

Hernandez was hoping to preserve his role in the postseason
rotation. Manager Joe Torre will likely use a four-man rotation in
the playoffs. New York can choose from Roger Clemens, Andy
Pettitte, David Wells, Mike Mussina and Hernandez.

"I think I need to have a couple more good games,'' Hernandez
said.

Hernandez's task was made somewhat easier by the continued
struggles of Tigers starter Steve Sparks (8-15), a knuckleballer
who had now allowed 22 runs in his last three starts over a span of
9 2-3 innings.

"They hit some balls hard today against him,'' Tigers manager
Luis Pujols. "This year has been a struggle for him pretty much
all year.''

Sparks allowed five runs on six hits with two walks and a hit
batter in 2 1/3 innings.

New York scored four times in the third when Sparks gave up five
hits.

"Sometimes, it goes from inning to inning how they throw,''
Jason Giambi said about knuckleball pitchers. "I don't know why, I
don't throw one.''

Giambi had an RBI single in the fifth and later added another in
the fourth off reliever Jeff Farnsworth.

Drew Henson, the former Michigan quarterback and considered the
Yankees' third baseman of the future, made his major league debut
as a pinch-runner. He replaced Bernie Williams, who hit an RBI
single in the eighth.

Mondesi drove in a run with a double in a four-run third that
made it 5-2 and chased Sparks.

Mondesi greeted reliever Jose Paniagua with his 25th homer, a
two-run shot, in the seventh.

Bobby Higginson gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead in the third with an
RBI single. He drove in Damion Easley, who had hit an RBI double.

The Yankees scored four times in the third after Alfonso Soriano
was hit by a pitch leading off. Giambi, Jorge Posada, Robin Ventura
and Mondesi all drove in runs.

Robin Ventura's RBI double in the second gave the Yankees a 1-0
lead. Easley doubled in another Tigers run in the fifth.

Game notes
Sparks made his 28th start of the season, but his first
against the Yankees since July 24, 2001. ... The Yankees have
donated 3,000 tickets to their Sept. 11 game against the Baltimore
Orioles to "The Gift of New York,'' a nonprofit initiative that
provides New York area cultural and entertainment activities for
families of those who died in the terrorist attacks. ... Soriano
stole third in the fourth inning for his 39th steal in 50 attempts.
... The crowd of 28,222 was only the sixth under 30,000 at Yankee
Stadium this season and the first since June 5 against the
Baltimore Orioles (26,506).