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Matsui busts out after being dropped in batting order

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Maybe it was the lineup shuffle. Maybe it was
the blister. Or, maybe it was just a matter of determination.

The New York Yankees weren't about to get swept in Cincinnati
again.

Hideki Matsui responded to a batting-order demotion with a
two-run homer and three doubles, and Yankees got their long-awaited
win in Cincinnati by beating the Reds 10-2 on Thursday night.

"Guys seemed a little looser on the bench when the game
started,'' manager Joe Torre said. "You get to a certain point
where you bottom out and you make fun of yourself.''

Until Thursday night, they'd had nothing to joke about in
Cincinnati since 1961, when they beat the Reds in the World Series.
They returned in 1976 and got swept by the Big Red Machine, and
dropped the first two games of their interleague series in front of
capacity crowds that reveled in their misery.

Some of the 42,282 fans waved brooms with '76 inscribed in red
on Thursday. With starter Danny Graves fighting a blister on his
pitching hand, the chances of a sweep quickly evaporated.

"He couldn't get the ball to sink,'' manager Bob Boone said.
"It flattens out. The pitch to Matsui, there was nothing there.''

Torre rearranged his slumping lineup, with good results. New
York's 10 doubles tied the club record and every starter got a hit,
with Matsui delivering the biggest.

Jose Contreras (3-1) escaped two bases-loaded threats as he
remained perfect in two starts. He gave up five hits in seven
innings, including Jason LaRue's homer in the second.

Matsui's long homer completed a five-run third inning off Graves
that set the tone and ended his 2-for-23 slump. He doubled each of
his next three times up, finishing 4-for-5 with three RBI.

Alfonso Soriano had three hits, including his 18th homer.

Matsui was known in Japan as "Godzilla'' for his prodigious
homers, and seemed to measure up to his three-year, $21 million
contract when he arrived. Matsui homered in his second spring

training at-bat, and hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium.

His slump prompted Torre to drop him to seventh for Thursday's
game, trying to ease him out of the international spotlight for a
while.

"Anytime you go through something like this, especially on our
ballclub, the pressure is enormous,'' Torre said. "The home run
just seemed to relax him.''

Matsui misplayed a single to center for an error in the first,
dropping his head in disgust as the ball rolled under his glove.
Two innings later, he hit one of the more impressive homers at
Great American Ball Park.

Jorge Posada doubled home a run and Robin Ventura doubled home
two more for a 4-1 lead. Matsui went to a 3-0 count against Graves,
and hit the next pitch off the batter's eye beyond the wall in
center.

Matsui showed no emotion as he rounded the bases on his fourth
homer overall and his first since May 7, a span of 25 games.

"It might be slightly different batting seventh, but I didn't
change my approach at all,'' Matsui said through a translator.

The blister forced Graves from the game after he gave up eight
hits and six runs in three innings. The closer-turned-starter had a
blister on the tip of the middle finger, and might have to be
pushed back in the rotation to let it heal.

"It's frustrating,'' Graves said. "We're playing great. We had
a chance to sweep in front of a sellout crowd. It's frustrating to
only be able to go three innings and then have to sit and watch the
rest of it.''

Contreras had trouble getting started. Cincinnati loaded the
bases with none out in the first, but Austin Kearns grounded into a
forceout at home and Aaron Boone grounded into a double play.

The Reds also left the bases full in the third, when LaRue
struck out.

"I knew we needed a win,'' Contreras said through a translator.
"We didn't want to go to Chicago having lost three straight.
That's probably why I was overthrowing in the first inning. I was
probably lucky that they hit ground balls and we were able to get
out of it.''

Ken Griffey Jr., who has 33 career homers against the Yankees,
got the night off as a precaution after aggravating his right arm
on a swing Wednesday. He also had a stomach virus.

Game notes
SS Derek Jeter doubled in his second at-bat, extending his
hitting streak to a season-high 12 games. He was appointed team
captain before the start of the series, then went 3-for-14. ...
Torre got his first ejection in the sixth by plate umpire Bruce
Dreckman for arguing ball-and-strike calls from the dugout. ... The
Yankees also had 10 doubles on April 12, 1988 at Toronto.