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Rivera notches his first save since Aug. 15

9/25/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- With the fans on their feet and heavy metal music blaring, Mariano Rivera came out of the bullpen to close out a ballgame.

It's starting to feel like October at Yankee Stadium.

Rivera got his first save in more than a month and Alfonso Soriano hit a tiebreaking double as the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4-3 Wednesday night.

"I'm ready to go to the playoffs,'' Rivera said. "Today felt good. I'm giving everything that I've got. I'm not holding anything back. What you see is what I've got.''

The Yankees, with the best record in baseball, reached 100 wins for the first time since 1998 and the 16th time in franchise history.

New York won for the 16th time in 22 games to move a season-high 42 games over .500.

"Quality year,'' manager Joe Torre said. "When you change as much personnel as we have from last year, and to have it meld together like it has, and with the pitching staff beat up at times, I think it's coming together at the right time.''

Roger Clemens recovered from a rocky start to retire 14 of his
last 15 batters in his final tuneup for the playoffs. The Rocket
figures to start one of the first two games of the AL division
series next week at Yankee Stadium.

Jeff Weaver (11-11) pitched three scoreless innings for the
victory, his first ever in relief. He gave up a leadoff double to
Randy Winn in the eighth, but retired Aubrey Huff, Ben Grieve and
Toby Hall to preserve a one-run lead.

Rivera entered to a huge ovation and pitched a perfect ninth for his 28th save in 32 chances -- and first since Aug. 15 at Kansas City. The All-Star closer has worked three scoreless innings since coming off the disabled list last Saturday after being sidelined with a strained right shoulder.

"It couldn't have been set up any better,'' Torre said.

If Rivera feels all right, Torre plans to use him again Thursday to see how he responds to pitching on consecutive days.

Soriano doubled twice off Tanyon Sturtze (4-18) but remained
stuck on 39 homers. He is trying to become the fourth player in
major league history with 40 homers and 40 stolen bases. Soriano
leads the AL with 41 steals.

"I felt a little more relaxed and patient today,'' Soriano said. "If it doesn't come, I've had a great season so I'm going to be happy anyway.''

Clemens gave up three runs and four hits in five innings, throwing 94 pitches. The Rocket remained at 293 career wins.

Sturtze became the first AL pitcher to lose 18 games since
Minnesota's Scott Erickson had 19 losses in 1993. Albie Lopez lost
19 games for Tampa Bay and Arizona last season.

"The season's over. I'm embarrassed,'' Sturtze said. "I wish I could have gone out with a win, and they got me a lead and I just couldn't hold it. I don't feel like inside I'm a 4-18 pitcher, but that was my record.''

Robin Ventura and Nick Johnson singled in the sixth. Juan Rivera
hit a potential inning-ending double-play grounder, but first
baseman Steve Cox couldn't come up with Andy Sheets' low throw from
second.

Soriano followed with his 51st double of the season, giving the
Yankees a 4-3 lead.

"I thought Sturtze had outstanding stuff,'' Devil Rays manager Hal McRae said. "One play here, one play there, it would have been a different outcome. Sturtze made a pitch to get off the field, to get the double play, but we didn't turn it.''

Clemens got in trouble right from the start, giving up
consecutive singles and throwing a wild pitch. Winn drove in a run
with an infield single, and Carl Crawford scored on another wild
pitch.

Hall added an RBI single, and Clemens hit Cox with a pitch
before retiring 13 in a row.

"I think he was just a little jumpy in the first inning,'' Torre said. "It was a great start. Once he got his rhythm going, he had dynamite stuff.''

Derek Jeter doubled in the first and scored when shortstop Chris
Gomez booted Bernie Williams' sharp grounder for an error.

Johnson drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and went to third on
Soriano's double. Jeter lined the next pitch up the middle for a
two-run single that tied it at 3.

Sturtze allowed four runs -- three earned -- and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. He dropped to 0-3 with a 7.23 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season.

Game notes
Clemens made a nifty play in the fifth, when he went to his knees to barehand Crawford's grounder just wide of the mound. ...
The Devil Rays are 9-24 in Sturtze's team-record 33 starts this
season. They went 15-12 in his starts last year. ... Winn's 39th
double broke Quinton McCracken's club record set in 1998.