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Jeter scores winning run on Matsui fly

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Yankees needed someone to save Mariano
Rivera. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter sparked a
championship-caliber rally just in time.

Rodriguez got the huge hit New York was waiting for all season, Jeter provided a vintage clutch play and the Yankees pulled off
another improbable postseason comeback, beating Minnesota 7-6
Wednesday night to even their series at a game apiece.

"Alex had a little trouble settling in here, but when you do
this at Yankee Stadium in a postseason game, especially coming from
behind, God only knows what it's going to do for him," New York
manager Joe Torre said. "You couldn't get a bigger hit."

That's for sure. Rodriguez came through with a tying double in
the 12th inning, then Jeter dashed home on Hideki Matsui's
sacrifice fly as the Yankees overcame a rare October failure by
Rivera.

After falling behind in the 12th on Torii Hunter's home run off
Tanyon Sturtze, the Yankees refused to fold. No surprise, because
New York set a major league record with 61 comeback wins during the
regular season.

"We never doubted ourselves," Gary Sheffield said. "We've
done this all season. There's no reason to think we couldn't do it
again."

Still, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner hardly seemed
impressed.

"We've won nothing yet, gang. Nothing, yet. We've got work to
do," Steinbrenner said. "It was great to come back."

Corey Koskie keyed the Twins' eighth-inning rally with a tying
double against Rivera, who blew a save in the postseason for only
the third time in 33 chances.

Game 3 in the best-of-five AL series will be Friday night at the
Metrodome, with Kevin Brown starting for the Yankees against Carlos Silva.

Jeter, Rodriguez and Sheffield homered earlier in this game, and
it went to extra innings tied at 5. It stayed that way until Hunter
connected against Sturtze, who had worked 2 2-3 hitless innings to
that point.

But Joe Nathan was running out of gas, too. The Twins' closer
had made 43 straight appearances without going more than one
inning, but manager Ron Gardenhire sent him out for a third inning
for the first time since May 20, 2003, in hopes of finishing it.

"He was still throwing 94, 95, 96 mph," Gardenhire said.
"It's a little disappointing. I probably left him out there too
long. I didn't like our options."

After a strike, Nathan walked No. 9 hitter Miguel Cairo and
Jeter on eight straight pitches with one out in the 12th, bringing
up Rodriguez, who hit only .248 with runners in scoring position in
his first season with the Yankees.

He's making up for all that in October. A-Rod hit a ground-rule
double to left-center on Nathan's 49th pitch, tying the score at 6
with his fourth hit of the game. It gave him three RBIs, and made
him 6-for-10 in the series.

"This team never gives up," Rodriguez said. "When we fell
behind in the 12th, we felt like there was a window of opportunity
with Nathan going out for his third inning. If we can just get some
guys on, we can tie it or win it."

Sheffield was intentionally walked before J.C. Romero replaced
Nathan.

With the outfield drawn-in, Matsui hit a liner directly at right
fielder Jacque Jones that appeared to be too shallow to score Jeter
from third.

But Jeter took off for the plate, and Jones' throw didn't have
much on it. First baseman Matthew LeCroy, who entered as a
pinch-hitter in the 10th, relayed the ball to the plate, but Jeter
slid in safely.

"I didn't care, I was going no matter what," Jeter said.
"Sometimes you have to force guys to make plays."

Paul Quantrill got one out in the 12th for the win, retiring
rookie Jason Kubel with two on.

"For us to have a chance to go up two games, 2-0, that was a
tough one," Nathan said. "I'm really disappointed with the
walks."

Jeter led off with a long ball, and Sheffield and Rodriguez hit
their first postseason homers in pinstripes to help the Yankees
build a 5-3 lead after seven innings.

With two All-Stars in Tom Gordon and Rivera at the back of the
bullpen, that was supposed to be the Yankees' foolproof formula for
playoff success. But they couldn't put this one away.

"I'm human," Rivera said. "It definitely bothers me. The team
gave me a two-run lead and suddenly it disappeared."

The Twins tied it at 5 in the eighth, rallying against Gordon
and Rivera. Jones reached on a wild pitch after striking out, and
Hunter singled.

That was as long as Torre could wait to go to Rivera, who had
been 12-for-12 in postseason save chances at Yankee Stadium. But he
gave up a bloop RBI single to Justin Morneau, cutting it to 5-4 and
leaving runners at the corners.

Koskie then came through with an outstanding at-bat, fighting
his way back from an 0-2 count. Choking way up on the handle just
like Diamondbacks slugger Luis Gonzalez did against Rivera in Game
7 of the 2001 World Series, Koskie sliced a 3-2 pitch into the
left-field corner for a double, tying the score at 5.

Koskie's ball bounced into the stands, perhaps costing the Twins
the go-ahead run. Pinch-runner Luis Rivas was running on the pitch.

Rivera recovered to strike out Kubel and retire Cristian Guzman
on a comebacker, stranding the potential go-ahead run at third.

"We were still in the game," Rivera said. "If I lose my
composure, we definitely would lose the game."

One night after getting shut out by Johan Santana and two
relievers, the Yankees hit three homers off Brad Radke -- one each
from the top three batters in the lineup.

Rodriguez added an RBI single in the seventh to make it 5-3,
snapping New York's 0-for-19 postseason skid with runners in
scoring position since Jeter's seventh-inning RBI single in Game 5
of the 2003 World Series.

Jon Lieber pitched 6 2-3 solid innings in his first career
postseason start. He left with a 4-3 lead and jogged off the mound
to a standing ovation.

After Morneau's two-out RBI double in the first, Jeter hit
Radke's third pitch into the empty black section beyond the
center-field fence for his 14th career postseason home run.

That ended another punchless string for the Yankees -- they had
been shut out in consecutive postseason games for the first time in
franchise history, dating to Josh Beckett's gem in Game 6 of the
2003 World Series for Florida.

"You get a chance to beat them in Yankee Stadium, you can't let
them off the hook," Twins left fielder Shannon Stewart said.

Rodriguez singled in the third before Sheffield's homer,
bringing chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" from the sellout crowd of
56,354.

Rodriguez connected in the fifth, giving the Yankees a 4-3
lead.

Game notes
Jeter became the third player to homer into the center-field black at Yankee Stadium in the postseason, joining Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series and Seattle's Jay Buhner in the 2001 ALCS.