Yankees 6, Padres 5, 12 innings

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NEW YORK (AP)—The Yankee Stadium crowd rocked and roared—and it wasn’t for David Wells.

Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra had just capped a four-run 12th inning with a game-winning sacrifice fly Sunday to give New York yet another stirring comeback victory, 6-5 over the San Diego Padres.

“I know weird things happen in Yankee Stadium, but this was amazing,” Alex Rodriguez said.

Trailing 2-0 heading into the ninth, the Yankees tied it when Hideki Matsui and pinch-hitter Kenny Lofton hit consecutive homers with two outs off Trevor Hoffman.

Then, after San Diego took a three-run lead in the 12th, the Yankees rallied again for their 16th win in 19 games. New York has come from behind in 19 of its last 27 victories, and has won 26 times this year after trailing.

“It’s not something you can teach or instill. If it’s not there, you can’t create it,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “These guys like each other, pull for each other, and I think it has galvanized in these guys the way the season has gone. I think they are having a lot of fun.”

It wasn’t all good news for New York, though: Its ailing pitching staff took another hit, with closer Mariano Rivera unavailable to pitch.

“He was a little uncomfortable, he had a little tightness in his back,” Torre said.

But Torre added: “I would be surprised if he’s not ready to go Tuesday.”

The Yankees are already without starters Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina, both injured earlier in the week.

In Wells’ return to Yankee Stadium, the 41-year-old left-hander allowed five hits in seven shutout innings. It was his first start against his former team since signing with the Padres during the offseason, and the cheering crowd gave him a warm welcome.

“It was touching, I got a little choked up,” Wells said. “I’ll always appreciate them—what they have done for me.”

But Hoffman blew his second save in 16 chances this season on two pitches.

The lone Padres player remaining from the 1998 team that was swept by the Yankees in the World Series, Hoffman also gave up a three-run shot to Scott Brosius that year in the eighth inning of Game 3, won by New York 5-4.

Lofton, who came off the disabled list Saturday, homered for the first time since joining the Yankees as a free agent in the offseason. At first, Sierra had been in the on-deck circle to bat for Tony Clark.

“Once Matsui hit his homer, I changed my mind,” Torre said. “I was hoping that Lofton would figure out a way to get on base and steal. I certainly wasn’t thinking home run.”

Lofton lined a 2-1 pitch into the right-field stands to tie it and earn his first curtain call with the Yankees.

San Diego went ahead 5-2 in the 12th on Mark Loretta’s sacrifice fly off Bret Prinz and Brian Giles’ RBI single off Felix Heredia (1-1), a ball that glanced off Gary Sheffield’s glove in right for an error that allowed the third run of the inning to score.

But Rod Beck (0-1) walked Bernie Williams leading off the bottom half, and Derek Jeter doubled.

Rodriguez hit an RBI grounder, and Sheffield singled Jeter to third. Jason Giambi then singled, pulling the Yankees to 5-4.

“They just took 700 saves and threw them in the laundry,” Beck said of his 286 career saves and Hoffman’s 366.

Jay Witasick relieved and Jorge Posada greeted the ex-Yankee with a tying RBI double down the right-field line. After Matsui was intentionally walked, Sierra hit a fly to center, sending the crowd of 52,754 into a delirious ovation.

Hours earlier, the cheers and shouts of “Boomer! Boomer!” for Wells started the moment he popped out of the Padres’ dugout and headed out to the bullpen to warm up.

He took the mound in the bottom of the first to another fittingly boisterous ovation and momentarily stopped on the mound to tip his cap in appreciation. But the lovefest ended with one pitch. Williams led off with a single to an even louder roar.

Wells didn’t give the Yankees much after that, retiring seven in row before allowing consecutive singles in the third. He then retired 10 straight until Rodriguez singled with two outs in the sixth.

San Diego backed Wells with Khalil Greene’s second-inning homer and Terrence Long’s RBI double in the seventh.

He rose to the occasion, he gave us a great effort,” Padres manager BruceBochy said. “It’s hard to pitch much better than he did today.”


Rodriguez reached base for the 50th straight game. … The Padres have scored just 14 runs in 10 starts while Wells was on the mound. … It was the first time the Yankees overcame a deficit of three or more runs in extra innings since Giambi’s 14th-inning grand slam beat Minnesota 13-12 on May 17,2002.

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