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Nelson strikes out side in eighth

8/9/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- When it counted, two quiet Yankees silenced all
the pregame hype about the Boone brothers and a swap of relievers.

Nick Johnson hit a grand slam an inning after David Dellucci
made a diving catch with the bases loaded as New York rallied to
beat the Seattle Mariners 9-7 Friday night in a matchup of the
teams with the best records in the American League.

"I got a smile out of him," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of
Johnson, who reluctantly took his first curtain call.

Dellucci played down his first big moment for the Yankees since
coming to New York in the Raul Mondesi trade July 29.

"Everybody came up and gave me high-fives and knuckles and said
great catch, but I didn't pay much attention," Dellucci said.

Hideki Matsui homered for the East-leading Yankees, who won
their fifth of seven matchups with the West-leading Mariners this
season. New York opened a four-game lead over the Red Sox, who were
swept in a doubleheader by Baltimore.

Jeff Nelson came on to pitch the eighth inning and face the
Mariners for the first time since being traded back to New York for
Armando Benitez on Wednesday. Nelson struck out Ichiro Suzuki,
Willie Bloomquist and Bret Boone, punctuating his final out by
pumping his fist and leaping off the mound.

"Nelson, he was sky-high," Torre said. "He was a sharp as he
could be."

The right-hander was excited, but not for the reasons he
expected.

"It was different than I thought," he said. "It was more of
`I got the Yankees pinstripes on' and the fans. I said 'It's time
to get a win."

Benitez pitched the bottom half to a loud chorus of boos from
the 52,793 fans.

As he's been prone to do against New York in the past, most
notably in Game 1 of the Subway Series in 2000, Benitez struggled
again at Yankee Stadium. He allowed a run-scoring single to
Johnson, who set career highs with four hits and five RBI, that
made it 9-7.

"I thought he pitched well," Seattle manager Bob Melvin said.
"It was just one of those things that found the hole."

New York's Aaron Boone, traded to the Yankees before the trade
deadline, and Seattle's Bret Boone each had one hit in the latest
episode of their sibling rivalry. Aaron Boone scored a run in the
sixth when Dellucci was hit by a pitch from Franklin with the bases
loaded.

Johnson's homer in the sixth capped an inning in which the
Yankees scored five unearned runs off Ryan Franklin (8-10) and came
after Dellucci made his catch to end the Mariners' fifth.

"I'm not trying to do too much," Johnson said, "just trying
to see the ball and swing.

Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his second straight save
and 23rd overall, after he'd blown his previous two save attempts.

The Yankees loaded the bases in the sixth on an error by
shortstop Mark McLemore, a single by Karim Garcia and an error by
catcher Ben Davis on a sacrifice by John Flaherty on an 0-2 count.

Alfonso Soriano, making his first start after sitting out two
games with a sore right thumb, flied out to center, Johnson then
hit his first career slam to right field, ending Franklin's night.

The Mariners batted around in the fifth against Jeff Weaver,
scoring four runs -- three with two outs -- on five singles and a
double by McLemore.

Weaver gave up three straight hits with two outs then stood with
his glove on his hip shaking his head as Torre went to the mound to
bring in Sterling Hitchcock.

Weaver, who held the Mariners to three hits in the first four
innings, seemed stunned that he was finished and made an extremely
slow walk to the dugout, serenaded by a Bronx Cheer that began
earlier in the inning.

"Weaver was good the first four innings," Torre said. "He had
terrible counts in the next. He started off 3-0 against the leadoff
hitter and it just snowballed from there."

Davis then hit a shallow fly off Hitchcock (1-2) down the
right-field line. Dellucci ran down and made a shoestring catch
while sliding chest-first on the slick grass and coming to a stop
on the warning track.

"I just went all out," Dellucci said. "As I got closer I said
let's go for it."

Melvin, Dellucci's former coach in Arizona, didn't think it was
out of the ordinary.

"I've seen him do that a ton of times. That's three runs right
there if he doesn't get it. That was a heck of a play and obviously
one of the key points of the game," he said.

The Yankees went up 3-1 in the second on Matsui's leadoff homer
and Soriano's two-run single.

Randy Winn hit a two-run homer off Chris Hammond in the seventh
to make it 8-7.

Game notes
The Yankees honored Roger Clemens with a pregame ceremony
celebrating his 300th win. The team gave him a red Hummer -- the
"Rocketmobile." Clemens and each of his four sons got
commemorative rings, and his wife Debbie was given a 300-win
pendant. ... NASCAR champion driver Richard Petty threw out the
ceremonial first pitch. ... Seattle optioned right-hander Aaron
Looper, cousin of Florida closer Braden Looper, to Triple-A Tacoma.
... Mariners infielder Rey Sanchez strained his right quadriceps
muscle and left for a pinch-hitter in the fifth. He is day-to-day.