Jeter's three-run double snapped a seventh-inning tie, Alex
Rodriguez homered into the left-field upper deck and New York beat
the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6-3 on Saturday.
"It's remarkable how far Derek Jeter has come in the last six,
seven weeks," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He handles
pressure better than any player I've ever been around."
Jon Lieber (7-5) gave the Yankees their best start in more than
two weeks, pitching seven solid innings to win his second
consecutive outing. New York has beaten Tampa Bay three straight
times after dropping five of six against the New York Mets and
The Devil Rays lost for the ninth time in their last 10 games at
Yankee Stadium and fell to 4-7 in July after going 20-6 in June.
It's only the second series they've lost in their past 15.
With the score tied at 2 in the seventh, Hideki Matsui and
Miguel Cairo hit one-out singles off Dewon Brazelton (2-2). Jesus
Colome walked Kenny Lofton, loading the bases, before Bernie
Williams bounced into a force play at the plate.
But Jeter lined a shot that rolled to the wall in right-center,
scoring three runners to the delight of a sellout crowd of 54,680
on Old-timers' Day at Yankee Stadium. The All-Star shortstop and
Yankees captain has raised his batting average from .161 on April
28 to .278.
"That was a huge hit," Rodriguez said. "We had Colome on the
ropes and let him get away a little bit. Jeet got a 2-1 pitch and
put a beautiful swing on it."
Tom Gordon allowed a run in the eighth, but Mariano Rivera
needed just five pitches to get three outs for his AL-leading 32nd
save in 33 chances. He's saved the first three games of the series
after not pitching for six days.
Rivera also moved into sole possession of 11th place on the
career saves list with 315, passing Robb Nen.
"It shows more and more when we play better teams that we lack
offensively," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said.
Lieber became the first New York starter to last seven innings
since Javier Vazquez beat Baltimore 5-2 on June 24.
The right-hander fell behind right away when the Devil Rays
opened the game with three straight singles and Huff drove in a run
with a groundout. Ex-Yankee Tino Martinez, still drawing cheers
every time he steps to the plate, followed with a sacrifice fly for
a 2-0 lead.
But Lieber settled down and pitched out of trouble the rest of
the way. He gave up two runs and nine hits, striking out five and
"I think the command was a little bit better, and that was the
key to the ballgame," Lieber said. "That, and keeping the ball
down. The slider was up a little bit in that first inning. I think
I was overthrowing at times."
Brazelton walked Sheffield leading off the fourth, and Rodriguez
sent a 2-1 pitch about 12 rows deep into the upper deck in left. It
was a mammoth shot -- much more rare than a home run into the
right-field upper deck at Yankee Stadium.
"I didn't have to look to see where it landed," Piniella said.
"Put it this way, I didn't hit any like that when I played here."
Rocco Baldelli hit a leadoff double in the eighth against Gordon
and scored on Martinez's second sacrifice fly, cutting it to 6-3.
The Yankees posthumously honored Hall of Fame pitcher Red
Ruffing with a plaque in Monument Park. Ruffing holds the franchise
record for wins by a right-hander with 231. He had four straight
20-win seasons from 1936-39, leading New York to four consecutive
World Series championships. ... The Old-timers' Day festivities
included four Hall of Famers: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie
Jackson and Phil Rizzuto. "The Yankees are the only ones who can
do this because of the history and the championships," Torre said.
... Tampa Bay is 3-8 against the Yankees this season. ... The Devil
Rays are 11-38 at Yankee Stadium. ... Sitting on 493 career homers,
Fred McGriff popped out as a pinch-hitter against Rivera in the