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Bats back erratic Contreras

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jose Contreras had just given up his third home
run of the game, and the Yankee Stadium crowd was booing. It seemed
as if nearly everyone in the ballpark had the same thought: The
erratic Cuban pitcher was going to unravel again.

Then, surprisingly, Contreras rebounded to retire his final 11
batters, and the Yankees came from behind for another win.

After Contreras wasted a three-run lead, backup catcher John
Flaherty singled in the go-ahead run and followed up with a grand
slam. The Yankees romped over the Colorado Rockies 10-4 Thursday
for their 13th straight interleague win.

"It didn't snowball on him like it did in the past," Flaherty
said.

With Kevin Brown's status uncertain because of his ailing back,
New York was looking for a strong start by Contreras, demoted to
the minor leagues last month and pushed back in the rotation after
lasting just two-thirds of an inning at Baltimore on June 2.

Contreras (3-2) was given a 3-0 lead in the first inning but he
couldn't hold it, allowing Todd Helton's two-run homer in the third
and solo shots to Luis Gonzalez and Choo Freeman -- Colorado's No. 8
and 9 batters -- in the fourth. Still, Yankees manager Joe Torre
decided not to have anyone warm up in the bullpen.

"The one thing he hasn't been able to do on a regular basis is
pitch out of trouble," Torre said. "The fact that he didn't come
apart, that is a big positive for me."

Contreras didn't allow another runner to reach, and New York
completed a three-game sweep, winning for the 14th time in 16 games
and improving to 30-9 following an 8-11 start.

"Today I went out there with more peace of mind, not worrying
if things go bad," Contreras said through a translator.

In the second season of a $32 million, four-year deal, Contreras
understands why he's under such scrutiny. With runners on base, he
looked uncomfortable pitching from the stretch.

Freeman's first career homer, which came on a shoulder-high
pitch, was the 13th in 35 innings off Contreras this season.

"When things don't go well, people talk," Contreras said.

He left after seven innings, having allowed four runs and five
hits with six strikeouts and two walks. His ERA dropped from 7.11
to 6.75.

New York is especially worried about Contreras because of Brown.
The 39-year-old right-hander did not comment on his condition when
arrived Thursday and left for tests to find out whether anything is
wrong with his back.

Brown came out of Wednesday night's game after two innings
because of discomfort, and Torre said the pitcher was scheduled to
have an MRI exam, among other tests.

"The full boat, just to put his mind at ease," the manager
said.

New York didn't expect to have the results until Friday.

At the plate, it was another big day for New York, which leads
the major leagues in scoring.

Bernie Williams went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks, tripling and
singling twice in his first three at-bats to become only the
seventh Yankee to reach 2,000 hits for his career. The crowd of
41,586 gave the longtime New York center fielder a standing
ovation.

Alex Rodriguez hit a tying double in the fourth off Jason
Jennings (5-6) and Flaherty, who struck out in his first two
at-bats, singled in the fifth for a 5-4 lead following Hideki
Matsui's opposite-field double.

Gary Sheffield boosted the lead with an RBI single in the sixth
off reliever Javier Lopez. Scott Dohmann came in and allowed
Flaherty's third career slam.

"I haven't felt that good at the plate all year," said
Flaherty, who has just 50 at-bats and is hitting .180. "If you're
playing once a week, you're not going to feel comfortable. It's not
going to be pretty much of the time."

Colorado manager Clint Hurdle couldn't understand the way his
team pitched to Flaherty, who matched his career best with five
RBI.

"For us to throw him an 0-2 fastball in that situation, I don't
get it," Hurdle said. "In fact, for us to throw three fastballs
in that sequence, when everybody in the ballpark saw him struggling
with the curveball, I don't understand."

Colorado has lost five straight, one shy of its season high.

"We need to right the ship, and we need to do it in a hurry,"
Helton said. "It should become a pride thing. It boils down to
wins and losses. We're not the worst team in the major leagues."

Game notes
While 13-16 at home, Colorado dropped to 8-22 on the road.
... Rodriguez has reached base safely in 47 straight games. ... The
Yankees have 25 from-from-behind wins.