<
>

Yankees' magic number reduced to two games

9/19/2002

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Jeff Weaver gives the New York Yankees a great luxury.

Weaver pitched 7 2/3 strong innings in place of the ill David Wells, and Alfonso Soriano picked up his 200th hit of the season as
the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-1 Wednesday night.

Jason Giambi hit his 38th homer for the Yankees, who cut their
magic number to two for clinching their fifth straight AL East
title.

Weaver (10-11) allowed one run and six hits. Acquired from
Detroit in a three-team trade July 5, the pitching-rich Yankees
have used the former Tigers' ace out of the bullpen.

"He pitched like a No. 1,'' Yankees general manage Brian
Cashman said.

Wells was scratched with a stomach virus and was examined at the
ballpark. He might pitch late this week or early next week.

"If he doesn't feel better tomorrow, he'll go to the doctor's
office for some follow-ups,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Weaver struck out two and walked one.

"He's an insurance policy for us,'' Torre said. "One thing
about him, he throws strikes. His whole approach of attacking the
strike zone put the hitters on the defensive.''

Weaver threw 64 of 99 pitches for strikes in his first outing in
eight days.

"These are the opportunities that allow something to happen,''
Weaver said. "The same thing could happen in the postseason, and I
need to be ready.''

Soriano went 2-of-5, including a pair of RBI singles. He is the
first Yankees player to reach 200 hits since Derek Jeter in 2000.

Soriano remains one homer short of becoming the fourth player to
have 40 homers and 40 steals in the same season. Soriano hit his
39th homer in Tuesday's 9-7 loss to Tampa Bay.

"Now I have to think about it,'' Soriano said with a smile
before the game. "I never really thought about it until this year.
It would be very exciting to be part of the group.''

Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996) and Alex Rodriguez
(1998) are members of the 40-40 club.

Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams was out of the lineup
because of mild inflammation behind his left knee. He re-aggravated
the injury on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field on Tuesday and
will likely miss a couple games.

Shane Spencer, who started in right field for the Yankees,
departed in the third after re-aggravating a left hamstring injury.
He had missed 15 straight games before returning Tuesday.

"I'm sure it's going to be a few days,'' Torre said. "He feels
like he didn't pull it, but it tightened up.''

Jeter was back in the lineup, a day after being forced to leave
when he was hit by a pitch in the right wrist.

Jared Sandberg hit a solo homer in the eighth for Tampa Bay,
which has dropped 11 of 14 against the Yankees this season.

"That's the Weaver that I've seen on TV for the past couple of
years,'' Sandberg said. "Dominating sinkerball pitcher, got the
groundballs and spun the curveball when he needed to.''

Victor Zambrano (6-8) gave up four runs and five hits in five
innings.

Soriano had an RBI single during a two-run third that put the
Yankees up 2-0. He later stole his 41st base.

Giambi hit a solo homer and Juan Rivera, bidding for postseason
playing time in left field, had an RBI single in the fourth that
made it 4-0.

Rivera went 3-for-4. He also threw out Toby Hall trying to
stretch a hit into a double to end the second.

Soriano's second run-scoring single in the sixth put New York
ahead 5-0.

The Devil Rays became the last AL team to reach the 1 million
mark in home attendance with the announced crowd of 14,993.

Game notes
Soriano joked that he plans to put a "X'' through 30-30
T-shirts his teammates wear if he hits his 40th homer. New 40-40
shirts would be made. ... Sandberg struck out in the third. He has
struck out in 75 of his 92 starts. ... Rivera was awarded a single
in the sixth when his one-hopper hit umpire Paul Nauert in front of
second base. ... Tampa Bay, at 50-101, set a team record for losses
in a season. ... Struggling Yankees' OF Rondell White went 2-for-4.