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Yankees 5 @ Devil Rays 2

Tuesday May 7, 2002

Mussina W4-2 | 7IP | 4H | 2ER | 1BB | 5K | 3.56ERA

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- It's only May, but the New York Yankees feel a sense of urgency.

The four-time defending AL champions beat Tampa Bay 5-2 Tuesday night to send the reeling Devil Rays to their 12th straight loss and give themselves a much-needed boost.

While Tampa Bay is in the longest slide in the major leagues since 1997 and set a team record for consecutive defeats, the Yankees snapped a three-game slide of their own.

"Hopefully it's the start of something," manager Joe Torre said. "We can win a game, but we need to start tying them together."

New York began the night five games behind first-place Boston in the AL East, the Yankees' largest deficit since 1997 -- the last time they failed to win the division or reach the World Series.

Tampa Bay's losing streak is the longest in the majors since Kansas City lost 12 straight from June 28-July 13, 1997 -- the summer before the Devil Rays began play.

The Devil Rays have been outscored 63-30 during the losing streak and have lost four times after taking leads into the ninth inning. Eight of the 12 setbacks have been by one or two runs.

"This is not a bad ballclub," Tampa Bay's Paul Wilson said. "We're just struggling to finish games. It's really frustrating."

Alfonso Soriano drove in two runs and Mike Mussina (4-2) allowed four hits in seven innings as New York rebounded from being sweep by Seattle in a weekend series at Yankee Stadium.

Mariano Rivera pitched a hitless ninth to earn the 224th save of his career and tie the team record set by Dave Righetti.

"You come out of the series that we had back home and get a day off, sometimes it can work a positive for you because we didn't have much momentum," Mussina said.

"You don't expect too many long losing streaks out of this club with the guys that we have the fortune to send out there to start. It just so happened that it was my turn to pitch. It could have been anybody."

Jason Giambi had an RBI double for the Yankees in the fourth inning, and New York rallied from a 2-1 deficit with two runs off Wilson (1-3) in the seventh.

Soriano, who was 3-for-4, tied the game with an RBI double. Derek Jeter followed with a run-scoring single that snapped an 0-for-11 streak. Soriano's RBI single in the ninth made it 4-2, and Jesus Colome threw a run-scoring wild pitch.

Mussina allowed just one runner to reach base before the Devil Rays broke through for their 2-1 lead on Jason Tyner's two-run single with one out in the sixth.

The Yankees starter escaped further damage when he got Randy Winn to ground to second and Steve Cox to fly to right, and New York came right back in the seventh to regain the lead.

Nick Johnson doubled with one out, then scored on Soriano's double. Jeter's single put New York ahead 3-2, bringing many of the fans in a small -- but mostly pro-Yankee -- crowd of 15,031 to their feet.

"Moose was great. He gave us a chance to win and we were able to hold it," Torre said of Mussina's performance.

"The fact that we lost the lead and came back, that's important. To be able to win that type of game that way, I just think it's important to be that kind of ball club."

Wilson allowed 10 hits in 8 2/3 innings, coming within one out of halting Tampa Bay's major league record of consecutive games without a complete game at 182.

Game notes
Soriano leads the majors with 17 multihit games. ... Giambi may have cost the Yankees a chance for a big inning in the fourth when he was doubled off second after Winn made a running catch on Robin Ventura's drive at the wall in right-center field. ... Devil Rays RHP Ryan Rupe was fined for intentionally hitting Boston's Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand in the first inning on Sunday. Boston's Trot Nixon was suspended for four games for intentionally throwing his bat at Rupe, and Red Sox pitcher was suspended for five games for intentionally hitting Tampa Bay's Randy Winn. ... Tampa Bay is 6-22 since beginning the season with a three-game sweep of Detroit -- which lost its first 11.


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