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Sheffield 4-for-5 with homer, 6 RBIs

BALTIMORE (AP) -- When he signed as a free agent in December,
Gary Sheffield never intended to be the dominant force in the New
York Yankees' lineup.

He merely wanted to lend a hand, a modest goal that nevertheless
proved to be elusive for the seven-time All-Star over the first two
months of the season.

All that changed Wednesday night,

Sheffield went 4-for-5 with a homer and six RBI, and the
Yankees used a five-run seventh inning to hand the Baltimore
Orioles their sixth straight loss, 12-9.

"Today it was a combination. Everybody contributed, and that's
what this team is all about," Sheffield said. "This team is
capable of great things, and today we proved that. These guys came
back."

In a wild game that featured 30 hits, five home runs and a
65-minute rain delay, the Yankees blew a 7-3 lead by allowing six
runs in the sixth, then rallied against the Baltimore bullpen in
the seventh.

Hideki Matsui started the uprising with a home run off Buddy
Groom, and after Enrique Wilson tied it with an RBI single off B.J.
Ryan (1-2), pinch-hitter Bernie Williams singled in a run and Derek
Jeter doubled. Sheffield then hit a two-run single to make it 12-9.

Sheffield, who came in mired in a 3-for-17 slump, also drew a
walk in his most productive outing with the Yankees. The six RBI
were one short of his career high, and he lifted his batting
average 16 points to .281.

"I don't care how many times he's made an out, I still
visualize this happening for him," New York manager Joe Torre
said. "It just felt very good to see it."

It was also a relief for Sheffield, who is working on a run of
six straight seasons in which he's batted over .300.

"I'm starting to feel comfortable, and once you start getting
some hits, good things start happening and you gain more
confidence," he said.

Tony Clark also homered, and Jeter and Kenny Lofton had three
hits apiece for the Yankees, who moved a season-high nine games
over .500 (27-18).

B.J. Surhoff and Melvin Mora homered for the Orioles, who fell
two games under .500 (20-22) for the first time under rookie
manager Lee Mazzilli.

Bidding to win his fifth consecutive start, New York's Mike
Mussina was lifted in the sixth after issuing a walk and a one-out
single. Surhoff hit his first homer of the season on the second
pitch from Paul Quantrill, and Jerry Hairston, Mora and Miguel
Tejada added RBI singles.

But the lead didn't last.

"Anytime you score five or six runs, the next inning it's
really important that you shut the team down," Mazzilli said. "We
just didn't do it."

Groom came in with a 2.19 ERA and Ryan was at 1.57, but neither
left-hander was effective against the Yankees in the pivotal
seventh inning.

"That was probably his worst outing," Mazzilli said of Ryan.
"The pitching just didn't hold up tonight."

Tanyon Sturtze (1-0) allowed two hits before retiring the final
batter in the sixth, and Mariano Rivera worked the ninth for his
16th save.

Mora put the Orioles up 1-0 in the first inning with his
team-high ninth homer, the first allowed by Mussina since April 27.

Baltimore added two runs in the second when Larry Bigbie hit an
RBI groundout and Hairston followed with a sacrifice fly.

Orioles center fielder Luis Matos preserved the margin by making
an excellent running catch of a drive by Sheffield with two on and
two outs in the third, but the Yankees used two walks and a
run-scoring groundout by Clark to close to 3-1 in the fourth.

New York took a 5-3 lead in the fifth. After Lofton doubled and
scored on a single by Jeter, the game was halted by rain. Alex
Rodriguez then reached on an infield hit and Sheffield hit a 1-0
pitch from Rodrigo Lopez deep into the left-field seats for his
fourth homer.

Lopez, who allowed five runs in five innings, has a 10.24 ERA in
two starts since joining the Orioles' rotation. He was 3-1 with a
0.33 ERA as a reliever.

Clark homered on the first pitch thrown by Darwin Cubillan in
the sixth, and Sheffield added an RBI single to make it
7-3.<^Notes:@ Rodriguez has reached safely in 34 straight games,
three short of his personal high. ... Baltimore RF Jay Gibbons sat
out the game with back spasms. ... Rafael Palmeiro made two outs in
the sixth.