<
>

Yankees clip Devil Rays, stay in thick of playoff hunt

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Derek Jeter got the biggest of the
Yankees' key two-out hits.

Jeter hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the seventh inning,
leading the Yankees past Tampa Bay 6-5 Wednesday night for their
second straight win over the Devil Rays.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Jeter lined a 3-2 pitch from
Travis Harper to right for a 6-4 lead. He had only three hits in
his previous 21 at-bats against Harper.

"I guess I was due then," Jeter said. "Every time is a
different situation. Those are big ... you've got to find ways to
come through. Those are situations you have to come through because
two-out hits are pretty clutch."

All the Yankees' runs came on two-out hits.

"We're gritty right now," New York manager Joe Torre said.
"We're grinding through games an inning at a time."

Owner George Steinbrenner watched from a suite as his Yankees
(82-62) moved a season-high 20 games over. 500 to remain 2½ games
behind first-place Boston in the AL East and one back of Cleveland
in the wild-card race.

"We've been playing well," Jeter said. "This part of the
season, it's just like in the playoffs. Every game you play is a
big game."

New York won the first two of a three-game set after losing its
four previous series against the Devil Rays, who are 11-7 against
the Yankees this year.

The Yankees' 17-3 victory Tuesday night marked the third time
this season New York scored at least 17 runs in beating the Devil
Rays. However, the Yankees lost the next day to Tampa Bay following
both a 19-8 win on April 18 and a 20-11 victory on June 21.

Chien-Ming Wang (7-4) allowed five runs and nine hits in 6 1-3
innings for his first win since July 8 against Cleveland. This was
his second start since missing two months with a shoulder injury.

Mariano Rivera, the fourth Yankees reliever, worked the ninth
for his 38th save in 42 opportunities. Julio Lugo walked with two
outs and tried to steal second with Carl Crawford batting but was
cut down by catcher Jorge Posada on a pitchout.

"Having Mariano on the mound really helps because you know he's
going to throw strikes," Posada said. "We took a gamble."

Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre called for the pitchout
from the dugout.

Crawford went 2-for-4 with two RBI, including a run-scoring
grounder that pulled Tampa Bay to 6-5 in the seventh. He is hitting
.420 (34-for-81) against the Yankees this season.

"We were going to run somewhere in that sequence," Tampa Bay
manager Lou Piniella said. "That's how we play."

Robinson Cano drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in
the fifth to put the Yankees up 4-2. Cano, who popped out before
Jeter's go-ahead hit in the seventh, is 2-for-17 with the bases
loaded this season.

The Devil Rays responded with two runs in the bottom of the
fifth on Crawford's RBI triple and a run-scoring grounder by Jorge
Cantu.

The Yankees threatened to take a commanding lead in the first
for the second straight day, but were held to one run when Bernie
Williams struck out with the bases loaded and two outs. New York's
1-0 lead came on an RBI double by Hideki Matsui.

Alex Rodriguez made it 2-0 with a run-scoring single in the
fourth. The hit came one batter after shortstop Lugo was charged
with an error for misplaying Jeter's two-out grounder.

The Devil Rays tied it at 2 in the fourth on RBI singles by
Jonny Gomes and Toby Hall.

"We battled," Piniella said. "It was a good ballgame. We just
beat."

Tampa Bay starter Mark Henderson went five innings, allowing
four runs and eight hits. He was looking to become the first
pitcher to beat the Yankees four times in one season since Chuck
Finley in 1996. The left-hander said New York was more patient than
in earlier meeting this season.

"That's more the team I'm accustomed to facing," Hendrickson
said. "It seemed like every inning was a battle."

Reliever Chad Orvella (3-3) gave up two runs, one hit and two
walks in 1 1/3 innings.

Game notes
Cantu left in the seventh after being hit on the left elbow
by a pitch. X-rays were negative. "At the time he had no feeling
in his forearm," Piniella said. "He's OK." ... The previous team
to score 17 or more runs three times against one opponent during a
season was the 1939 Yankees. New York beat the Philadelphia
Athletics 23-2, 18-4 and 21-0 that season. ... Tampa Bay pitching
coach Chuck Hernandez was back in uniform after missing Tuesday's
game with flulike symptoms.