Series: Game 2 of 3

Series tied 1-1 (as of 9/18)

Game 1: Tuesday, September 17
New York 7Final
Tampa Bay 9
Game 2: Wednesday, September 18
New York 7Final
Tampa Bay 1
Game 3: Thursday, September 19
New York 2Final
in 10
Tampa Bay 3

Yankees 7

(95-56, 45-29 away)

Devil Rays 1

(50-101, 27-50 home)

    7:15 PM ET, September 18, 2002

    Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida 

    123456789 R H E
    NYY 002201002 7 - -
    TB 000000010 1 - -

    W: J. Weaver (10-11)

    L: V. Zambrano (6-8)

    Yankees' magic number reduced to two games

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Jeff Weaver gives the New York Yankees a great luxury.

    Jeff Weaver

    Weaver pitched 7 2/3 strong innings in place of the ill David Wells, and Alfonso Soriano picked up his 200th hit of the season as the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-1 Wednesday night.

    Jason Giambi hit his 38th homer for the Yankees, who cut their magic number to two for clinching their fifth straight AL East title.

    Weaver (10-11) allowed one run and six hits. Acquired from Detroit in a three-team trade July 5, the pitching-rich Yankees have used the former Tigers' ace out of the bullpen.

    "He pitched like a No. 1,'' Yankees general manage Brian Cashman said.

    Wells was scratched with a stomach virus and was examined at the ballpark. He might pitch late this week or early next week.

    "If he doesn't feel better tomorrow, he'll go to the doctor's office for some follow-ups,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

    Weaver struck out two and walked one.

    "He's an insurance policy for us,'' Torre said. "One thing about him, he throws strikes. His whole approach of attacking the strike zone put the hitters on the defensive.''

    Weaver threw 64 of 99 pitches for strikes in his first outing in eight days.

    "These are the opportunities that allow something to happen,'' Weaver said. "The same thing could happen in the postseason, and I need to be ready.''

    Soriano went 2-of-5, including a pair of RBI singles. He is the first Yankees player to reach 200 hits since Derek Jeter in 2000.

    Soriano remains one homer short of becoming the fourth player to have 40 homers and 40 steals in the same season. Soriano hit his 39th homer in Tuesday's 9-7 loss to Tampa Bay.

    "Now I have to think about it,'' Soriano said with a smile before the game. "I never really thought about it until this year. It would be very exciting to be part of the group.''

    Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996) and Alex Rodriguez (1998) are members of the 40-40 club.

    Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams was out of the lineup because of mild inflammation behind his left knee. He re-aggravated the injury on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field on Tuesday and will likely miss a couple games.

    Shane Spencer, who started in right field for the Yankees, departed in the third after re-aggravating a left hamstring injury. He had missed 15 straight games before returning Tuesday.

    "I'm sure it's going to be a few days,'' Torre said. "He feels like he didn't pull it, but it tightened up.''

    Jeter was back in the lineup, a day after being forced to leave when he was hit by a pitch in the right wrist.

    Jared Sandberg hit a solo homer in the eighth for Tampa Bay, which has dropped 11 of 14 against the Yankees this season.

    "That's the Weaver that I've seen on TV for the past couple of years,'' Sandberg said. "Dominating sinkerball pitcher, got the groundballs and spun the curveball when he needed to.''

    Victor Zambrano (6-8) gave up four runs and five hits in five innings.

    Soriano had an RBI single during a two-run third that put the Yankees up 2-0. He later stole his 41st base.

    Giambi hit a solo homer and Juan Rivera, bidding for postseason playing time in left field, had an RBI single in the fourth that made it 4-0.

    Rivera went 3-for-4. He also threw out Toby Hall trying to stretch a hit into a double to end the second.

    Soriano's second run-scoring single in the sixth put New York ahead 5-0.

    The Devil Rays became the last AL team to reach the 1 million mark in home attendance with the announced crowd of 14,993.

    Game notes

    Soriano joked that he plans to put a "X'' through 30-30 T-shirts his teammates wear if he hits his 40th homer. New 40-40 shirts would be made. ... Sandberg struck out in the third. He has struck out in 75 of his 92 starts. ... Rivera was awarded a single in the sixth when his one-hopper hit umpire Paul Nauert in front of second base. ... Tampa Bay, at 50-101, set a team record for losses in a season. ... Struggling Yankees' OF Rondell White went 2-for-4.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press