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Baltimore halts nine-game losing streak, shreds Yankees pitching

BALTIMORE (AP) -- For one miserable night, the New York Yankees
reverted to the form they displayed over the first two weeks of the
season.

It was a step back they could ill afford in the middle of a
tight pennant race.

Gary Sheffield hit two homers and drove in six runs, but the
Baltimore Orioles ended a nine-game losing streak with a 17-9
victory Tuesday night in an ugly affair that lasted 4 hours, 16
minutes.

"Sometimes these things get away from you, and you can't do a
whole lot about it," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

New York's third loss in 16 games, combined with Boston's split
of a day-night doubleheader with Toronto, left the Yankees and Red
Sox tied atop the AL East. Both teams have five games left, meaning
the division title will be decided when the front-runners meet this
weekend for a three-game series at Fenway Park to close the regular
season.

The Red Sox and Yankees are also tied with Cleveland atop the
wild-card standings.

New York lost five of six to Baltimore over a 10-game span in
April, but recovered in time to make a playoff run. The Yankees had
won seven straight over the Orioles until getting blown out in this
one.

The Yankees trailed 5-1 before Sheffield hit a two-run homer in
the third inning. He put New York ahead with his 11th career grand
slam, a shot to left in the fourth that made it 7-5.

"He had two great swings and got us the lead. He gave us a
chance," said starter Mike Mussina, who didn't get out of the
second inning. "It just was not a good night to be a pitcher."

An RBI single by Miguel Tejada and Jay Gibbons' two-run homer
off Al Leiter (4-5) in the fourth put Baltimore back in front, and
the Orioles scored five runs off three relievers in the fifth to
make it 13-7.

Javy Lopez led off with his 13th homer, and first since Aug. 25.
After a walk and two singles loaded the bases, a passed ball let in
a run and Felix Rodriguez issued two straight walks to force in a
run. Wayne Franklin then walked in a run and gave up a sacrifice
fly to B.J. Surhoff.

New York scored unearned runs in the seventh and eighth, but the
Orioles scored four in the eighth off Tanyon Sturtze, who yielded
an RBI double to Luis Matos and a three-run homer to Melvin Mora.

Mora drove in five runs and scored four, Gibbons went 3-for-4
with a walk and four RBI, and rookie Bernie Castro had three hits
and scored four runs to help the Orioles end their longest skid of
the season.

"I think this game made us realize we still have some good
players, and if we play like we're able to play, then we can
compete a little better than we've been," interim manager Sam
Perlozzo said.

When Sheffield hit his slam, however, the Orioles couldn't help
believing that this game might be like all the rest during their
horrid losing streak.

"It's hard not to think here we go again. It's been that kind
of stretch for us," Gibbons said.

It was the first time since Aug. 5 -- and only the second time
since June 4 -- that Baltimore reached double figures in runs.

Aaron Rakers (1-0) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his
first major league win.

Sheffield's two homers gave him 33 for the year, and in the
seventh he hit a shot to the left-field wall that was caught by a
leaping David Newhan.

Derek Jeter hit his 18th homer for New York, and Bernie Williams
got two singles to pass Joe DiMaggio for fourth place on the
Yankees' career hit list. With 2,215 hits, Williams trails only Lou
Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle.

Making his second start since missing three weeks with an elbow
injury, Mussina gave up five runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings.
It was his shortest outing since July 1995, when he got only two
outs while pitching for Baltimore against Kansas City.

The bullpen didn't fare much better.

"Not one thing I did tonight (worked)," Torre said. "I never
picked the right guy out of the bullpen."

Jeter got the Yankees started by hitting Bruce Chen's second
pitch over the center-field wall, his fifth leadoff homer of the
season and 17th of his career.

The Orioles answered with two runs in the bottom half. After
Castro doubled and went to third on a single by Tejada, Gibbons
doubled in a run and Surhoff hit a run-scoring groundout.

Baltimore chased Mussina during a three-run second that made it
5-1. After Mora hit a two-run double and Tejada followed with an
RBI single, a single by Gibbons ended Mussina's night after 50
pitches.

Game notes
New York needs one homer to match the fourth-highest total
in franchise history (223). ... Sheffield is 10-for-24 with 10
homers and 14 RBI lifetime against Chen. ... It was the most runs
New York scored in a loss since an 11-10 defeat in Boston on July
24, 2004.