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Yankees ride slumping White's three-run homer

9/8/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rondell White had been waiting a long time for a
hit this big.

The slumping White hit a tiebreaking, three-run homer in the
eighth inning and the New York Yankees beat the Detroit Tigers 6-4
Sunday, cutting their magic number for clinching the AL East to 12.

After Tigers rookie Andy Van Hekken evenly dueled Roger Clemens
into the late innings, White won it with a two-out shot. White
began the game in a 1-for-26 rut, but homered off Oscar Henriquez
(1-1) and took a curtain call.

''My whole goal now is getting things right for the playoffs,''
said White, who also had an early single. ''Get my swing
together.''

Nagged by injuries for most of the season, the former star
outfielder was hitting only .192 with runners in scoring position
before launching his 13th home run.

Before the game, manager Joe Torre said he still wasn't sure who
would play left field in the postseason. White started at DH while
rookie Juan Rivera was in left.

''It was huge for him,'' Torre said. ''The game is about mental.
The physical part usually follows it. That was something that he's
going to enjoy the off day with.''

Mike Stanton (7-1) got the win and Steve Karsay got two outs for
his 10th save. Coupled with Boston's 9-4 loss to Toronto, the
Yankees moved closer to winning their fifth straight division
title.

Van Hekken made a major splash last Tuesday against Cleveland,
becoming the first Tigers pitcher to throw a shutout in his big
league debut since Schoolboy Rowe in 1933.

The lean left-hander, who grew up in Michigan rooting for
Clemens, did a nice job of keeping the Yankees off-balance with
soft stuff. Although he allowed three runs on homers by Jason
Giambi and Derek Jeter, only one of the runs was earned.

Van Hekken struck out two and walked one in six innings. He was
pulled after 94 pitches.

''Playing here, in this environment, against these guys, I had a
lot of fun,'' the soft-spoken 23-year-old said. ''I thought I did
good.''

He didn't even get intimidated facing his boyhood idol in
baseball's most famous park.

''I thought I might get a little nervous. But once I got out
there and saw the guys, I got into the flow.'' he said.

Van Hekken's parents were among the crowd of 39,302. His father,
Dave, caught the early action with a camcorder, pumped his fist
when Ron Coomer struck out and banged his thigh when Giambi's drive
cleared the fence.

''They thought I did well,'' he said.

Clemens, seeking his 293rd career victory, went seven innings
and wound up with a no-decision. He got a little piece of history,
though -- he tied the Yankees record by throwing three wild pitches
in an inning.

Giambi hit his 36th homer in the third. The two-run shot
accounted for the first two runs allowed in the majors by Van
Hekken -- both were unearned, though, because of a throwing error by
shortstop Omar Infante.

Jeter hit a drive over the left-center wall in the fifth for his
17th home run, tying it at 3.

The Tigers scored three times in a bizarre fourth. Damion Easley
led off with a double and moved up on a wild pitch before Bobby
Higginson and Robert Fick singled.

With one out and runners on first and second, Eric Munson hit a
little looper that Jeter caught on the run in front of second base.
Jeter's toss to shortstop Alfonso Soriano appeared to trap
Higginson off second, but umpire Bill Miller called him safe.

Soriano, however, thought he had completed an inning-ending
double play and rolled the ball to the mound and the Yankees
started to run off the field. Higginson and Fick then took off and
easily advanced to an unoccupied base. After a lengthy discussion
involving both managers and all the umpires, it was ruled that time
had been called and the runners were sent back.

''Then that inning got really weird. I was off the field,''
Clemens said.

But Clemens threw two more wild pitches, scoring Higginson, and
Chris Truby hit an RBI double for a 3-2 lead.

Yankees rookie Juan Rivera made a diving catch in left field to
preserve the tie in the top of the seventh. He doubled to start the
bottom half and moved up on Soriano's first sacrifice bunt of the
season, but was stranded.

Game notes
Yankees LHP David Wells, with a bruise on his forehead,
expects to make his next start Thursday night against Baltimore.
Wells was punched in the head and lost two teeth after being
attacked in a diner early Saturday. ... Hall of Fame announcer
Ernie Harwell threw out the first ball. At 84, the Tigers
broadcaster will retire this season after 55 years of calling
baseball games.