<
>

Jeter extends hitting streak as Yanks win sixth straight

NEW YORK (AP) -- Robinson Cano made the most of his chance to hit
in the top half of the New York Yankees' stacked lineup.

Moved up to the third spot when the Yankees reshuffled their
batting order because of drizzly weather, Cano hustled for a
tiebreaking double in the seventh inning that sent New York over
the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-4 Thursday night.

The All-Star second baseman had not hit above fifth this season
and had never batted third in his major league career. But when
Bobby Abreu was scratched, Cano slid into his slot.

"It means you're doing good," Cano said. "You just want to be
in the lineup."

Cano doubled twice and drove in three runs, giving him 40 RBI
in 36 games since missing six weeks because of a strained left
hamstring. He's also hitting .339 -- he would be among the AL
leaders, but is a few plate appearances short of qualifying.

The Yankees won their season-high sixth in a row and cut their
magic number to six for clinching their ninth consecutive AL East
title. New York could wrap it up by taking three of four from
Boston this weekend, with a loss by third-place Toronto.

"Everyone is contributing," captain Derek Jeter said.

Jeter extended his hitting streak to 23 games, Hideki Matsui
lined his first home run since missing more than 100 games because
of a broken left wrist and Alex Rodriguez had a two-run single.

Rocco Baldelli homered twice and tripled for the Devil Rays in
their fourth straight loss. He also flied out to deep center as the
Yankees dropped Tampa Bay to 2-25 on the road since July 1.

"They're locked in right now. They're ready for the playoffs,"
Baldelli said. "I don't see many teams beating them the way
they're playing right now."

With light rain falling and showers in the forecast, Yankees
manager Joe Torre scratched starter Chien-Ming Wang and picked
rookie Jeff Karstens to pitch.

Outfielders Johnny Damon and Abreu also were given a rest,
rather than playing on the damp turf. The late switches prompted
Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon to say the Yankees were bringing
their "mudder" lineup for the wet track.

The Yankees did have a player injured, though it had nothing to
do with the conditions. Jorge Posada was hit in the left elbow by a
pitch that he swung at, left the game and was day-to-day.

Melky Cabrera resumed the at-bat with a 1-2 count and struck
out, but it was charged to Posada.

Devil Rays starter James Shields left before the sixth because
of cramping in his right hamstring, and doesn't expect to miss his
next start. Shields and Karstens both pitched five innings, giving
up four runs, six hits and a walk.

It was 4-all when Kevin Thompson singled with one out in the
Yankees seventh off Ruddy Lugo (2-3). After Bernie Williams
singled, Shawn Camp relieved and struck out Jeter. Cano followed
with a hard grounder through the hole at shortstop and ran hard for
an RBI double.

Darrell Rasner (2-0) pitched four scoreless innings of one-hit
ball for the win.

Down 4-1, the Yankees tied it in the fifth. Jeter hit an RBI
single with two outs and Cano followed by slicing a liner that
bounced out of left fielder Carl Crawford's outstretched glove near
the wall and fell for a two-run double.

Matsui sent a drive off the facing of the upper deck in right
field in the second, one of the best balls he could remember
hitting.

"I don't know if it's the hardest, but it would fall in that
category," he said through a translator.

Game notes
Jeter's hitting streak is the longest by a Yankees player
since Don Mattingly's 24-game string in 1986. ... Crawford stole
two bases, raising his AL-leading total to 52. ... Baldelli's first
multihomer game in the majors came on his mother's birthday. He has
played three times in the majors on his mom's birthday, and has
homered each game. ... Devil Rays RF Delmon Young turned 21.