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

"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,

"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,

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.