Yankees 5, Devil Rays 4

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NEW YORK (AP)—Jason Giambi and the New York Yankees certainly never figured it would be such a relief to beat Tampa Bay.

Giambi hit a go-ahead, two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning, and New York rallied past the Devil Rays 5-4 Wednesday night for a much-needed victory against a surprising nemesis.

“I love being in that spot, and it’s great to come through,” Giambi said. “Hopefully, this will get us going and get us on a little bit of a tear.”

Hideki Matsui hit his 400th professional homer and drove in three runs for the Yankees, who fell behind 4-0 in the first inning and lost slugger Gary Sheffield to a tight hamstring.

But New York fought back and improved to 5-10 against last-place Tampa Bay this year after beginning the season 80-31 against the low-budget Devil Rays, who began play in 1998.

Knocked out of his previous outing when he was hit in the collarbone by a line drive, Jaret Wright settled down after a shaky start.

“That’s the most important thing. He didn’t lose his composure,” manager Joe Torre said.

Tanyon Sturtze (5-3) worked 1 1-3 scoreless innings for the win, and Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for his 36th save in 40 tries. The Yankees remained four games behind first-place Boston in the AL East and a half-game ahead of Cleveland in the wild-card race.

With Tampa Bay ahead 4-3, Joe Borowski (1-3) retired his first two batters in the eighth before Alex Rodriguez reached out and punched a single to center. Giambi then drove an 0-1 pitch down the right-field line for his 27th homer.

“It was a slider that didn’t slide. It stayed right there on the inner half. It was a nice pitch to hit,” Borowski said. “I tried to blow it foul, but it stayed true right down the line.”

Playing from behind and pressing at the plate, the Yankees wasted a couple of scoring opportunities and appeared headed to another puzzling loss.

Down by one, they loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, and an angry Lou Piniella dispatched Devil Rays pitching coach Chuck Hernandez to pull reliever Trever Miller.

The move paid off when Travis Harper got Derek Jeter to ground into an inning-ending double play, leaving him 3-for-21 against the right-hander. Jeter also grounded into a game-ending double play in a 4-3 loss Tuesday night.

“You don’t see that happen two days in a row,” Torre said.

Wright left his previous start last Thursday in Seattle after he was hit by Raul Ibanez’s liner. He looked fairly comfortable on the mound in this one, though a leadoff walk and his throwing error led to Tampa Bay’s four-run first.

“You’re going to think about it,” Wright said. “Once you’re out there, you’ve got to play the game. Everything is in the past after that.”

After walking Julio Lugo, Wright rushed a wild shovel toss past first on Carl Crawford’s bunt single, putting runners at second and third. Jorge Cantu followed with a two-run single.

One out later, Sheffield pulled up while chasing Jonny Gomes’ RBI triple to right-center and left the game with tightness in his left hamstring. He is day to day.

“It’s a little tight. I feel it right now. I don’t think it’s that serious,” Sheffield said. “If I feel better tomorrow, I’ll get in there.”

Travis Lee’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0, but Piniella wanted his team to tack on more runs the rest of the way.

“You have to against the good teams that can score,” he said.

Wright hadn’t given up a first-inning run in 16 starts dating to last season with Atlanta, which was the longest current streak in the big leagues, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“After that, we got better movement and just backed off a little bit,” Wright said.

Staked to the early lead, Doug Waechter retired his first 10 batters before Matsui drove the next pitch over the right-center fence to give him 21 homers this season and 68 since joining the Yankees in 2003. The outfielder hit 332 for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League from 1993-02.

“The feeling itself, it is the same,” Matsui said through a translator. “I don’t really add the statistics that I had in Japan and the home runs here.”

But he did keep the ball as a souvenir.

“To me, it’s not that important,” he said. “Perhaps my father will be pretty happy if I give it to him.”

Robinson Cano singled leading off the sixth, Jeter doubled and Matsui followed with a two-run double that cut it to 4-3. But with runners at the corners, Giambi lined to first against Miller for an inning-ending double play.

“We were all thinking in the back of our minds, oh God, here we go, the Devil Rays have our number,” Giambi said.


The Devil Rays fell to 3-6 on their 10-game trip. Seven of the games have been decided by one run. Tampa Bay is 24-20 in one-run games this year, but 8-14 away from home. … Crawford got his 42nd stolen base in the seventh, his seventh against New York this season—more than any other player. … Cantu has 99 RBIs. Aubrey Huff holds the club record with 107 in 2003. … The Yankees have 34 comeback wins, 17 when trailing by at least three runs.

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