Series: Game 3 of 4

NY Yankees leads 3-0 (as of 9/9)

Game 1: Monday, September 6
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NY Yankees7
Game 2: Monday, September 6
Tampa BayPostponed
NY Yankees
Game 2: Tuesday, September 7
Tampa Bay2Final
NY Yankees11
Game 3: Wednesday, September 8
Tampa BayPostponed
NY Yankees
Game 3: Wednesday, September 8
Tampa BayPostponed
NY Yankees
Game 3: Thursday, September 9
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NY Yankees9
Game 4: Thursday, September 9
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NY Yankees10

Devil Rays 1

(59-78, 23-44 away)

Yankees 9

(87-52, 49-21 home)

3:05 PM ET, September 9, 2004

Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York 

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TB 010000000 1 5 2
NYY 32020110 - 9 12 1

W: M. Mussina (10-9)

L: D. Brazelton (6-7)

Only a handful see Mussina beat D-Rays

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Mussina looked out from the bullpen a half-hour before his start against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and couldn't believe what he saw: more than 50,000 empty seats at Yankee Stadium.

"There were maybe 250 people out there," Mussina said. "But that's what's happened with this series, with the weather. When you come to the ballpark and there's only a couple hundred people out there, you don't know how you're going to react to that."

The New York Yankees got back to playing baseball, and Mussina (10-9) threw eight sharp innings in a 9-1 victory in the first game of a doubleheader Thursday.

"Today, he was as good as he can be," manager Joe Torre said.

Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui each drove in two runs for the Yankees, who have won four in a row and entered the day two games ahead of Boston in the AL East. The Red Sox were scheduled to play at Seattle late Thursday night.

With the threat of heavy rain in the forecast and a mid-afternoon start time, only a few hundred fans were in the stands when the doubleheader started. A nearly empty Yankee Stadium more resembled a Montreal Expos home game with the fans' individual cheers and shouts clearly audible -- as well as each crack of the bat.

"When you're used to playing in front of 40,000 or 50,000 people, you don't want the team to think this game wasn't important," Torre said. "It was a little strange."

The teams played two games because Wednesday's doubleheader was rained out. The first game Wednesday was supposed to be a makeup of Monday's doubleheader that was changed to a single night game when the Devil Rays were unable to get to New York in time for Game 1 due to Hurricane Frances.

Rob Bell (6-7) started Game 2 for the Devil Rays against Brad Halsey (1-2).

Mussina allowed one run, four hits, struck out six and walked none to win for the first time since June 27.

"He looked comfortable," Torre said. "He had a good look about him and he wanted to go out there even with a big lead."

Mussina, who was out from July 7 to Aug. 10 with right elbow stiffness, had lost five straight decisions -- the longest slump of his career.

"I think I'm pleased with the way I'm throwing the ball," Mussina said. "After missing that much time, you don't know when it's going to come back."

The Devil Rays have lost a season-high 10 straight, their longest skid since they lost 15 in a row from April 25 to May 10, 2002.

"We haven't been swinging the bats too well," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. "If we fall behind early, it's a problem. And that's what happened."

The first game Thursday was played under mostly sunny skies, and the Yankees treated those who showed up to an offensive outburst against Dewon Brazelton (6-7) by scoring three runs in the first.

Derek Jeter led off with a single and Rodriguez, in his third game in the No. 2 slot, also singled. The runners advanced on a balk, and Jeter scored on Sheffield's single.

Matsui followed with an RBI double and, one out later, Bernie Williams' run-scoring groundout made it 3-0.

"I like the energy at the top of the lineup," Torre said. "If you get Bernie going, you tighten up the middle of the lineup, too."

Tampa Bay got a run back in the second on Jorge Cantu's fielder's choice.

The Yankees added two more in the second on Jeter's sacrifice fly and Sheffield's RBI single.

In the fourth, Brazelton walked Rodriguez with the bases loaded to make it 6-1, ending the right-hander's day.

Scott Kazmir, a former Mets prospect, came in and got Sheffield to pop out before walking Matsui to force in another run. Kazmir then struck out Jorge Posada and Williams to avoid further damage.

"I was in a tight situation," Kazmir said. "I was just trying to throw strikes. I wanted to go after them."

Brazelton allowed seven runs -- six earned -- and nine hits in three-plus innings. He dropped to 0-5 on the road this season and 0-11 away from Tampa Bay in his career.

Posada added an RBI single in the sixth, and Rodriguez had a run-scoring single in the seventh to make it 9-1.

Game notes

The Yankees are 13-4 against Tampa Bay this season, including 8-0 at home. ... Plate umpire Jerry Crawford was hit in the side of the head by a deflected pitch, forcing him to leave after the second inning. He was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, where a CT scan was negative and he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press