Yankees 7, Devil Rays 1

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NEW YORK (AP)—After the New York Yankees allowed 49 runs in six games, manager Joe Torre was looking for a quality start from somebody, anybody.

He found it from a most unlikely pitcher: Jose Contreras.

Contreras (6-3) held Tampa Bay to one run and three hits in 6 2-3 innings Thursday night and the Yankees got a two-run homer from Gary Sheffield, a two-run double by Hideki Matsui and a pair of RBI doubles from Derek Jeter in a 7-1 victory.

The best part for Torre was Contreras, who has baffled the Yankees with his inconsistency.

“Sometimes, he overloads his plate thinking about what must be done,” the manager said. “We’re going to have to stay with him and continue to talk about what needs to be done. He is a work in progress.”

The Yankees have a $32 million investment in Contreras and have often been mystified by his performance. “You know the ability is there,” Torre said. “You see him throw 96, 97 mph. You’ve got to find a way to have it work for you.

“He tries to do too much, think about too many things. He gets too deliberate and loses momentum.”

That happened in the fourth inning. After he cruised through the first three innings, Contreras seemed to lose concentration.

The Devil Rays scored a run on three walks and a base hit and had the bases loaded and two outs. Contreras squirmed off the hook, retiring Toby Hall on a fly ball to end the inning.

“I lost my rhythm a little bit,” Contreras said through a translator. “I was taking too much time between pitches.”

There also was a disagreement on pitch selection. Catcher Jorge Posada wanted him to be more aggressive, something the Yankees have frequently preached to Contreras.

“He had a sequence of pitches different from the ones I had,” the pitcher said. “We talked between innings and I was able to regroup and gather myself and get my rhythm back.”

He sailed through the next nine hitters before a single by Hall and an error by Alex Rodriguez finished Contreras in the seventh. He left to cheers, something he has rarely heard from Yankees fans.

“It was a very different feeling,” he said. “I have not given them what they want. I understand that. This was a different feeling.”

Paul Quantrill relieved and, after Carl Crawford beat out an infield single to load the bases, Rocco Baldelli grounded out, ending the inning.

When Quantrill gave up a pair of hits in the eighth, closer Mariano Rivera came on, making his first appearance since July 1. Rivera got Julio Lugo to ground into an inning-ending double play, then finished for his AL-leading 30th save in 31 opportunities.

The Yankees added to their lead in the bottom of the seventh on a two-run double by Matsui.

Contreras came in with a 6.10 ERA. He gave up seven runs and eight hits in five innings in his last start Sunday against the New York Mets.

He was a different pitcher against the Devil Rays, throwing 100 pitches, 57 for strikes. He struck out three and walked three.

“He didn’t look like a six-ERA pitcher,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “He’s got good stuff. I don’t know what the problem is.”

The Yankees scored a run without a hit in the first inning when Tampa Bay starter Victor Zambrano walked the bases loaded and Jason Giambi delivered a sacrifice fly.

New York added another run with two outs in the second. Kenny Lofton walked and moved up on a single by Bernie Williams. Jeter then doubled in Lofton, but the Yankees left two runners in scoring position when Zambrano struck out Sheffield.

Tampa Bay scored in the fourth when Baldelli opened with a single. Jose Cruz Jr. walked, and the runners advanced on a wild pitch.

Tino Martinez grounded out, scoring Baldelli. After Lugo walked and stole second, Fred McGriff, sitting on 493 career home runs, was walked intentionally, loading the bases. Contreras, working deliberately, then got Hall on a fly ball, ending the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, Lofton doubled with one out and, after Zambrano struck out Williams, Jeter doubled again, making it 3-1. The two doubles gave Jeter 27 hits in his last 82 at-bats, a dramatic recovery from the 0-for-32 slump that dropped his batting average to .161 on April 28.

Sheffield connected for his 15th homer of the season off Travis Harper inthe eighth, making it 7-1.


The crowd of 40,378 helped the Yankees surpass last season’s record of 3,562,711 in ticket sales. New York leads the majors in both home and road attendance, and the average home crowd of 48,071 is 19,000 more than the average of all other major league teams (29,072). … RHP Kevin Brown (back spasms and intestinal parasite) threw in the bullpen and reported no problems. He remains on the disabled list and will throw again this weekend. … Jeter’s two doubles gave him 20 for the season. … Zambrano had been 3-0 this seasonagainst the Yankees. … Rivera’s save was the 313th of his career.

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