Yankees 5, Athletics 3

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NEW YORK (AP)—Hideki Matsui is quickly proving he can do more than just hit home runs.

The slumping slugger neatly slapped a key hit-and-run single and an RBI double, and made two nice catches in left field to lead the New York Yankees over the Oakland Athletics 5-3 Friday night.

Billed as a power hitter when he joined the Yankees from Japan in the offseason, Matsui has hit only two homers so far. In the meantime, he’s rapidly building a reputation as a complete player.

“I don’t think I have a specialty here or there. I try to do everything,” he said through a translator. “Right now, it’s difficult for me to try to hit home runs because I’m trying to get comfortable.”

David Wells pitched the Yankees to their third win in a row and 12th in 15 games. Manager Joe Torre moved into a tie for 14th place on baseball’s career victory list with Fred Clarke at 1,602.

After the start was delayed 78 minutes by rain, Wells (4-0) and Ted Lilly (2-1) dueled into the middle innings.

Wells made only one mistake, giving up a two-run homer to ninth-place hitter Eric Byrnes in the third. Lilly, pitching for the first time against the team that traded him last July 5, gave back the lead in the bottom half on Todd Zeile’s two-run homer.

Lilly figured to be a bit excited about this start. He still keeps in touch with Torre and has several friends on the Yankees.

“I think the first inning is something you want to get through,” Lilly said. “You want to get the ball rolling.”

Wells gave up five hits in seven innings. Juan Acevedo pitched a scoreless eighth, then was pulled after allowing Erubiel Durazo’s leadoff double in the ninth.

Mariano Rivera was summoned for the third straight day, and closed for his second save. He started the season on the disabled list because of a groin injury and was activated this week.

Terrence Long had an RBI groundout for Oakland in the ninth.

Matsui, down to a .250 batting average after grounding out in his first two at-bats, helped the Yankees take a 3-2 lead in the sixth. Bernie Williams drew a leadoff walk and was running when Matsui fought off a tough, up-and-in pitch and singled to center field.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Chad Bradford relieved Lilly and Robin Ventura pinch-hit for rookie Erick Almonte, who already had two hits. Ventura, tied with Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Dave Kingman for sixth place on the career grand slam list with 16, never swung in drawing a five-pitch walk to force home the go-ahead run.

After Williams was intentionally walked in the seventh, Matsui poked an opposite-field double to left off Bradford, a side-arming righty, to drive in Zeile for a 4-2 lead.

“When you work the field like he does, the pitcher can get hurt, even if he makes a good pitch,” Torre said.

Said Athletics manager Ken Macha: “It wasn’t well hit, but it was well placed.”

Pinch-hitter Nick Johnson drew another bases-loaded walk—he has walked in 16 straight games, the longest such streak for the Yankees since Willie Randolph did it in 17 in a row in 1980-81.

Matsui continued to show he’s learning how to play Yankee Stadium’s notoriously tough and spacious left field. He made a diving catch on Miguel Tejada’s sinking liner in the fourth and reached into the stands to grab Scott Hatteberg’s foul fly with two runners on to end the seventh with the Yankees ahead 3-2.

“He gets such a good jump, we noticed that in the spring,” Torre said.


Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer was in the hospital, a day after being admitted for treatment of what the team called a mild gastrointestinal problem. The 72-year-old Zimmer is expected to be released in two-to-three days. … The slumping Tejada batted cleanup for the first time this season. The reigning AL MVP began the game with a .164 batting average and singled in his first at-bat. The star shortstop also made his eighth error of the season after committing a career-low 19 last season. … Hatteberg was hitless in four at-bats and is in an 0-for-16 slump. … Yankees slugger Jason Giambi was 0-for-4, striking out three times. He’s hitting .189. … Wells walked one. He’s walked a total of two in 46 innings this season. … Byrnes extended his career-best hitting streak to eight games. The center fielder also made an outstanding diving catchon Raul Mondesi’s fly ball.

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