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Twins had rallied from six down minus Hunter

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- As All-Star closer Joe Nathan walked to the
mound in the ninth inning with the Metrodome crowd roaring, the
Minnesota Twins looked to be on their way to a sweep of the New
York Yankees.

Gary Sheffield changed all that with one powerful swing.

Sheffield homered twice and keyed a four-run rally in the ninth
inning Thursday night, sending the Yankees to a seesaw, 13-10 win
over the Twins.

Nathan, who hadn't allowed a run in 29 innings, got Derek Jeter
to ground out leading off the ninth with Minnesota clinging to a
one-run lead. His next pitch was a low fastball to Sheffield, who
somehow reached down and drove it into the left-center seats.

"It was a good pitch," Sheffield said. "It was just a
situation where I was trying to be aggressive. If you get behind in
the count with him, he's lights-out. I was just trying to get on
base and give us a chance to win the ballgame."

Mission accomplished.

"I'm telling you, the pitch that he made to Sheffield wasn't a
bad pitch," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Ninety-four mph,
or whatever, down below the knees and he hit it out. That's just a
pretty good hitter."

Afterward, Alex Rodriguez called Sheffield an MVP.

"I can't see anybody who's played better baseball in the last
four months -- with a bad shoulder to boot. It's been awesome to
watch," he said.

Earlier, it looked as if the Twins would complete an improbable
comeback.

Down 9-3 and minus Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter after
he crashed into the fence, the Twins came back and almost swept the
three-game series between AL division leaders.

Shannon Stewart hit a two-out, two-run triple past Sheffield's
lunge in right field, giving the Twins a 10-9 lead in the eighth
and capping a stirring comeback against New York's stellar bullpen.

"He'd fouled off a bunch of pitches and I didn't think he'd be
able to pull one into the gap," Sheffield said. "I just moved
over about two steps and it cost us."

He more than made up for it his next at-bat.

After Sheffield's homer, Rodriguez, just back from a four-game
suspension, followed with a single and a stolen base.

"We were on the road, and you've got to attack," Rodriguez
said. "I like to save my legs, but I think I'll run when the
game's on the line."

That set the stage for Hideki Matsui, who grounded a go-ahead
single.

Later in the inning, pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra had an RBI
single, and another run scored on a throwing error by center
fielder Lew Ford.

Nathan, who still received a polite ovation as he walked to the
dugout, tried to brush off the tough loss.

"It's not about worrying about what you did the previous day.
It's about coming back in and trying to start a new streak," he
said.

Ford entered as a replacement for Hunter, who strained his neck
when he ran into the padded wall while sprinting after Jorge
Posada's double in the fifth. Hunter stayed down on the warning
track for several minutes, left the field on a cart and was day to
day.

Tom Gordon (4-3) got the win despite allowing Stewart's triple.
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his major league-leading 41st
save.

"I thought we had it when we had a six-run lead the second
time," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "But those things
happen."

The Twins have a four-game lead over Cleveland in the AL
Central. Gardenhire was pleased that his team won a series against
the Yankees after losing 13 straight regular-season games to them
before this week.

Sheffield and Rodriguez homered to help the Yankees build a big
lead going into the seventh, but Paul Quantrill and Gordon couldn't
hold it for Orlando Hernandez.

Luis Rivas hit an RBI double, and Quantrill relieved El Duque.
Stewart followed with a single, and Jacque Jones hit a two-run
double to make it 9-6. Ford's RBI triple chased Quantrill. Justin
Morneau's RBI grounder off Gordon pulled the Twins within a run.

With two outs and runners at the corners in the eighth, Stewart
worked a full count against Gordon before his liner to right-center
barely eluded Sheffield, playing with a painful left shoulder.

"At the last minute, it started to dive, but my mind must have
thought otherwise," Sheffield said. "Maybe if I'd have dived I
would have caught it."

After being outscored 15-4 in the first two games of the series,
the Yankees broke open a 1-all game with a five-run fifth off
starter Carlos Silva.

Posada led off with a drive that Hunter almost caught. But the
three-time Gold Glove winner smacked into the wall and lost the
ball. Sheffield's homer capped the burst.

Game notes
The Yankees improved to 8-0 in games started by Hernandez.
... Rodriguez got an inadvertent foot to the face from Jones when
they collided at third base in the sixth. ... On his return from
the suspension, Rodriguez said: "I've missed one game in four
years. I got really nervous watching my team on TV." ... The last
time the Yankees blew a six-run lead and lost was July 14, 2002, at
Cleveland, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.