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Huff beats Hernandez, whose auditioning

9/24/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Every time someone tried to ask Orlando
Hernandez about his postseason pitching prospects, El Duque shut
them out.

Aubrey Huff had the eighth and final hit off Hernandez, a run-scoring single that broke a fifth-inning tie and led the Tampa Bay Devil
Rays to a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees on Monday night.

New York (98-58) missed an opportunity to move into a tie with
Oakland (99-57) for the American League's best record.

''We haven't gotten to the postseason yet,'' Hernandez said
through a translator. ''We still have games to play here, and
that's what I'm worried about.''

Hernandez has a career record of 9-2 in the postseason with a
2.48 ERA, but he could be the odd man out in the playoffs if
manager Joe Torre decides to go with a four-man rotation. The top
three spots would figure to go to Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte,
Mike Mussina and David Wells.

Hernandez (8-5) retired 12 consecutive batters after Huff's
tiebreaking hit, but the Yankees couldn't get their offense in gear
as they had their three-game winning streak snapped.

While Hernandez deflected all questions about postseason
ramifications, Torre said the outing Monday night would have no
bearing on his plans. The Yankees have already clinched the AL
East.

''I don't think anybody can pitch themselves on or off at this
point,'' Torre said. ''I know it's assumed that Duque is out of the
mix, but that has not been decided.''

Victor Zambrano (7-8) allowed six hits and a pair of unearned
runs, getting into trouble only once in six innings. Wilson Alvarez
worked two innings of relief and Esteban Yan pitched the ninth for
his 19th save.

Huff, one of the hottest hitters in the majors since July 19
with 96 hits in 262 at-bats (.366), also had an RBI in Tampa Bay's
two-run first inning. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk.

Alfonso Soriano went 2-for-3 for the Yankees but did not hit a
home run. With 39 homers and an AL-leading 41 stolen bases, Soriano
is seeking to become the fourth 40-40 player in major league
history. He lined out to right with a runner on first to end the
game.

''He's the buzz in the dugout,'' Torre said. ''Everybody sort of
looked at each other because he was the winning run and there he
was. It was dramatic, but it wasn't meant to be.''

Bernie Williams went 2-for-3, giving him 199 hits and raising
his average two points to .336. He is third in the AL batting race
behind Kansas City's Mike Sweeney and Boston's Manny Ramirez.

Tampa Bay scored two runs in the first before Hernandez started
to settle down. Huff drove in a run on a fielder's choice, beating
out a potential double-play grounder, and Ben Grieve added a
sharply hit run-scoring double to the gap in right-center.

Hernandez gave up eight hits, walked two, threw a wild pitch and
hit a batter in his first four-plus innings. After that, he had
three of his eight strikeouts and did not allow another baserunner.

Torre said Hernandez made only one mistake all night, while
catcher Jorge Posada said there were two -- both of them in the
first inning; one to Huff, the other to Grieve.

Hernandez defensively maintained that none of his pitches were
bad.

''He had a winning effort tonight. We just didn't score enough
runs,'' Torre said.

The Yankees have not hit a home run in four games -- their
longest homerless drought since Sept. 11-14, 1998.

New York tied it at 2 in the third on a two-run single by
Posada, but they did not put a runner in scoring position the rest
of the night.

Game notes
Jason Giambi, who missed the previous three games with a
stiff back, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. ... Mariano Rivera
pitched the ninth for New York, his second appearance since coming
off the disabled list. He faced three batters, broke three bats and
allowed one hit. ... Tampa Bay did not allow a home run for the
first time in 18 games. ... Soriano was hit by a pitch leading off
the first inning. It was the 88th hit batsman by Devil Rays
pitchers, five shy of the major league record set by the Red Sox
last season.