Yankees 12, Devil Rays 4

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NEW YORK (AP)—Bobby Abreu finished off the Devil Rays all by himself—in the first inning. Hideki Matsui kept getting applause all night.

Abreu hit a three-run homer and a three-run double in a nine-run first and finished with a career-high seven RBIs in the New York Yankees’ 12-4 laugher over Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

“It was crazy,” said Abreu, who went 2-for-3 with a third-inning sacrifice fly and fourth-inning flyout to the warning track, just missing a grand slam.

Matsui, returning from the broken left wrist that ended his consecutive games streak on May 11, went 4-for-4 with a walk, earning several standing ovations and tying his major league high for hits in a game. As fans rose before his first at-bat, he showed rare emotion, taking off his batting helmet and waving it at the crowd of 52,265.

“When I got to the plate, I never even imagined I would receive such an ovation,” he said through a translator. “I felt nothing but appreciation.”

Derek Jeter batted in each of the first four innings without getting an official at-bat: He had three walks and was hit by a pitch. He didn’t bat again, and his career-high 21-game hitting streak remained intact under baseball’s rules. With three runs scored, he increased his total to 102 and broke 100 for the 10th time.

Yankees manager Joe Torre at first forgot about the streak when he pinch hit for Jeter in the seventh.

“I apologized,” Torre said. “He said, `I wasn’t going to catch him, anyway,”’ a reference to Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game streak.

Then Torre found out that Jeter’s streak continued under the rules. Jeter, whose .346 average is second in the AL to Minnesota’s Joe Mauer (.348), can’t avoid the streak these days.

“You notice it because every time you’re on deck, somebody in the stands is yelling to get a hit,” Jeter said.

Mike Mussina (14-6) pitched 6 1-3 shutout innings to win for the first time in six starts, and the Yankees lowered their magic number to nine for clinching their ninth straight AL East title, maintaining a season-high 10 1/2 -game lead over Boston.

Pitching on six days’ rest after a stint on the disabled list caused by a strained right groin, Mussina allowed five hits, struck out five and walked none. He had been 0-3 since beating Tampa Bay on July 30.

“I felt better today. I felt more comfortable out there,” he said.

New York (87-56) won its fourth straight and moved 31 games over .500 for the first time this season. The Devil Rays (57-87) dropped 30 games under .500.

“They’ve got this whole juggernaut thing going when they’re getting ready for the playoff season,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.

Abreu became the first Yankees player with six RBIs in an inning since Gil McDougald in the ninth on May 3, 1951, at the St. Louis Browns, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the first major leaguer with six RBIs in the first since Oakland’s Matt Stairs had a grand slam and a two-run single against the California Angels on July 5, 1996.

Abreu, who has 31 RBIs in 41 games since the Yankees acquired him from Philadelphia, had 11 runners on base in his four at-bats. He homered on the first pitch he saw from starter Tim Corcoran (4-8) for a 3-0 lead, a drive off an advertisement board attached to the bottom of the upper deck in right field.

Coming to the plate as the 12th batter of the first inning, Abreu doubled off reliever Brian Stokes to make it 9-0, the ball going just over the outstretched glove of left fielder Carl Crawford deep in the left-center gap.

Abreu’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly set a career high for RBIs in a game—on Aug. 24, 1999, he hit a pair of three-run homers in Philadelphia’s 18-2 rout of San Diego. His fourth-inning flyout was caught by Delmon Young, who was just in front of the right-field wall.

“If it’s earlier, it’s probably a home run with the warmer weather,” Torre said.

Corcoran gave up seven runs, five hits and two walks, getting his only out when Jason Giambi flied to left. He is 0-8 since beating the Yankees on July 9.

“I didn’t even give myself a chance to get anything going. It just snowballed,” Corcoran said.

Notes

New York, 9-3 against Tampa Bay this year, had not scored nine runs in the first inning since June 5, 1988, when it won 9-2 at Baltimore. … Down 12-0, Tampa Bay scored in the ninth when Dioner Navarro and Ben Zobrist hit a two-run singles off Octavio Dotel. … Miguel Cairo entered for New York at 2B in the seventh. He had been sidelined since Aug. 5 with a strained left hamstring. … Only Lou Gehrig (13) and Babe Ruth (11) had more 100-run seasons with the Yankees than Jeter.

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