Yankees 2, Rangers 1

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NEW YORK (AP)—Jason Giambi overheard manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre talking about taking Mike Mussina out of the ballgame in the ninth inning.

So with two outs in the eighth, Giambi did all he could to help give the Yankees’ starter a shot at a shutout—he homered.

Giambi’s solo shot gave New York a two-run lead and Mussina got his chance, but Mariano Rivera ended up finishing off the Yankees’ 2-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

“(Stottlemyre) told me I was coming out. I talked him into letting me stay in, then I threw one down the middle,” Mussina said.

Mussina allowed a first-pitch triple to Rod Barajas to start the ninth, but didn’t make many mistakes in his best outing of the season.

He had the Rangers fooled all day, mixing his fastball with a tricky knuckle curve to win his sixth straight decision. He struck out a season-high 10.

The right-hander never went to a three-ball count and didn’t let a runner reach second until Laynce Nix hit a ground-rule double to left-center with one out in the eighth.

“It was a good day to be pitching,” Mussina said of the crisp, 58-degree weather. “Depending on what I wanted to do, I could set them up with the heater and finish with the breaking ball or the other way around. I can’t complain about much of anything.”

Mussina (7-4) gave up a single to Eric Young with one out in the third, then retired his next 12 batters before giving up a single to ex-Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano with two outs in the seventh.

“That breaking ball was so good today,” New York manager Joe Torre said. “They’re a fastball-hitting team. They didn’t have many good swings.”

Bernie Williams, batting leadoff for the first time in eight years because captain Derek Jeter sat out for the second straight day with a pulled right groin, homered on the first pitch of the fourth inning from Ryan Drese to help the Yankees win for the 11th time in 13 games.

New York took two of three in the series and has split its first six games of the season against the Rangers.

“When I looked and saw who we had, with (Gary) Sheffield out, it was a matter of getting our best bats at the top of the lineup,” Torre said. “He seemed to like it.”

Williams went 3-for-4 in his first start in the top spot since April 16, 1996, against Milwaukee.

“I was much younger then,” Williams said. “I guess I was the right guy today.”

Rivera relieved after Barajas’ triple off the wall in center and gave up an RBI groundout to Michael Young.

After striking out Hank Blalock, Rivera gave up a single to Soriano. When Soriano ran on Rivera’s pitch, shortstop Miguel Cairo broke to cover second and Brad Fullmer singled through the hole at shortstop, sending Soriano to third.

Rivera then got Mark Teixeira on a chopper to the pitcher for his 23rd save in 24 chances.

Drese (2-3) had his second strong outing against the Yankees, this time against a lineup missing Sheffield and Jeter. Sheffield was used as the designated hitter the last three games because of sore knees and a stomach virus, but his symptoms worsened Saturday night and he missed his first game since joining the Yankees as a free agent in the offseason.

“Drese threw the ball great,” Mussina said. “We hit two balls good and that was the difference.”

Giambi, sidelined since spraining his right ankle May 21, hit his 10th homer in the eighth to make it 2-0.

“Giambi went down and got that changeup,” Drese said. “That was the difference in the ballgame.”

On May 22, Drese retired the first 14 Yankees he faced until he gave up consecutive homers to Williams and Tony Clark. On Saturday, Drese allowed seven hits and two runs in eight innings. He struck out five and walked one.

“He gave us a chance to win, he did a good job of taking advantage of what he had,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. “He threw a lot of off-speedstuff out of the zone, some balls some strikes.”

Notes

The Yankees honored several World War II veterans before the game on the 60th anniversary of D-Day. There was a moment of silence for the Allied troops who died during the war. … Rodriguez reached base safely for the 44thstraight game. … The Rangers finished 5-6 on their road trip.

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