ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays did not
play like the worst team in the majors.
Andy Sheets' game-winning RBI single with two outs in the bottom
of the 10th inning led the Devil Rays to a 3-2 win over New York,
keeping the Yankees' magic number for clinching the AL East at two. The Devil Rays became the first team since the 1964 New York
Mets to take a series from a first-place team after eclipsing 100
losses. Tampa Bay is 2-18-3 in its last 23 series. After losing two of three at Tampa Bay, the Yankees head to
Detroit to begin a three-game series Friday as they try to clinch
their fifth straight division title. Any combination of two New
York wins or Boston losses will clinch it. "I thought we played well,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
"We just didn't score.'' Aubrey Huff hit a one-out single off Sterling Hitchcock (1-2) in
the 10th and went to third on Ben Grieve's double. After Toby Hall
was intentionally walk, Hitchcock fell behind 3-0 before striking
out Jared Sandberg. After falling behind 0-2, Sheets took two
pitches before singling to left. "I hung a split,'' Hitchcock said. "I've always been pretty
good at wiggling out of jams. It's frustrating.'' "I had faced him in a rehab start, and with two strikes he
threw that split,'' Sheets said. "So I was waiting for it.''
Tampa Bay tied it at 2 when Randy Winn hit a solo homer off
Steve Karsay in the eighth -- New York's second blown eighth-inning
lead this series. The Yankees had converted 12 straight saves since
closer Mariano Rivera went out with an injury before this series. The Yankees fell one game behind Oakland for the race for best
record in the AL. "They're playing for something,'' Tampa Bay manager Hal McRae
said. "They really needed to win. We played with a heck of a club.
We got it done.'' Esteban Yan (7-8) worked a scoreless inning for the win. Alfonso Soriano went 2-for-5, including an RBI single that put
the Yankees up 2-1 in the fifth. He had nine hits in 15 at-bats
during the series. 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 Tuesday. Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996) and Alex Rodriguez
(1998) are members of the 40-40 club. Soriano would become the only
one with 40 doubles during the same season. Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams was out of the lineup for
the second straight game because of mild inflammation behind his
left knee. He flew out to the warning track as a pinch-hitter in
the 10th. Mike Mussina allowed one run and five hits over seven innings in
his failed bid to snap a personal three-game losing streak. He
worked out of several jams, holding the Devil Rays hitless in 10
at-bats with runners in scoring position. "I got a little better as the game went along,'' Mussina said.
"I'm just trying to get better and be more consistent'' Dewon Brazelton, Tampa Bay's top draft pick last year, gave up
two runs and seven hits over seven innings in his second career
start. Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the first when Winn scored after
Yankees center fielder Raul Mondesi misplayed Huff's liner. Mondesi was charged with a two-base error.
The Yankees got the run back on Juan Rivera's first career homer
in the third. Rivera went 2-for-3. He and Rondell White are the top contenders to start in left field when the postseason begins. White was hitless in four at-bats, and has six hits in his past
46 at-bats. Shane Spencer, who could miss at least five days after
re-aggravating a left hamstring injury Wednesday, likely dropped
out of the left field mix for the first playoff round.
"I don't know what I'm going to do,'' Torre said. "Whoever
starts the first game may not start the second. It's going to be a
New York LHP David Wells, scratched from his start
Wednesday because of a stomach virus, is scheduled to start Sunday.
... Wells was seen picking up what appeared to be a mouse with two
cups in the Yankees' dugout early in the game. ... Rivera (right
shoulder) threw 12 minutes in the bullpen and could be activated
from the DL by Saturday. ... As part of rookie hazing, Yankees 3B
Drew Henson found a wedding gown instead of his clothes in his
locker. He wore the dress as he left the ballpark.