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New York runs win streak to eight in a row

9/13/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bernie Williams gave Yankees fans a pair of
reasons to celebrate his 35th birthday.

Showing signs of breaking out of his prolonged slump, Williams
hit two homers in a game for the first time in more than a year.
Ruben Sierra added a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning Saturday,
and New York beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6-5 in the opener of a
day-night doubleheader.

Williams didn't celebrate after the win, New York's seventh
straight.

"Still got another game," he said. "I put it on hold now."

Before the game, New York manager Joe Torre found it hard to
believe that his center fielder had turned 35.

"He is old. Maybe I'll give him a birthday present," the
63-year-old Torre said playfully. "He has to give me one first."

Williams hit a solo homer on the first pitch he saw from Rob
Bell in the second inning, then drove Bell's pitch into the first
row of the upper deck in the sixth for a 5-4 lead. It was the first
multihomer game for Williams since May 17 last year against
Minnesota.

Asked what Williams' reward for those presents was, Torre
replied: "He gets to play the second game."

Before his go-ahead homer against Boston last Sunday, Williams
had been in a 9-for-60 slump. That was the first of four home runs
he's hit on the homestand, which have boosted his season total to
14. On Saturday he had his first three-hit game since Aug. 23.

Williams thinks he's been inconsistent rather than slumping. He
was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts Friday.

"One day is good. One day is terrible," he said.

After Tampa Bay tied the score 5-all in the eighth against Gabe
White (2-0), Sierra led off the bottom half with a homer to center
off Joe Kennedy (3-12). Juan Rivera was the right fielder in New
York's original lineup, but Torre put Sierra in to get him some
at-bats, and he responded with his first home run since July 18.

"I crushed that ball," said Sierra, who had been in a 6-for-37
slide.

The Yankees have praised Sierra for working hard in a part-time
role.

"It's mostly been off the field as an adviser to the young
players -- and the older players, because he's been talking to me,
too," Williams said.

Torre probably would have replaced Sierra with Rivera in right
field to start the eighth, but put Rivera in left after Hideki
Matsui bruised his knee on the final play of the seventh.

Matsui was hurt when he hit a ball to the right side with two
outs and the bases loaded. Kennedy picked up the ball and went for
the tag near the foul line, colliding with Matsui's left knee.
X-rays were negative.

Aaron Boone and John Flaherty hit second-inning RBI doubles for
the Yankees, who began the day four games ahead of second-place
Boston in the AL East. On a rainy afternoon, New York also got a
run in the fourth on a passed ball by catcher Pete Laforest.

Mariano Rivera needed just four pitches to get three outs for
his 36th save in 42 chances.

Jeff Weaver, making his first start since Aug. 18, allowed
singles to his first three batters, falling behind 2-0 in the first
on Julio Lugo's RBI single and Laforest's sacrifice fly. Laforest
tied it 3-all with an RBI grounder in the third, and Lugo knotted
it at 4 with an run-scoring grounder in the sixth off Felix
Heredia.

"Obviously, the first inning was a little shaky," Weaver said.

White threw a called third strike past Jared Sandberg to get out
of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, but he allowed Carl
Crawford's leadoff comebacker in the eighth to go through his legs
for an error, and Aubrey Huff singled in Crawford to become only
the second Tampa Bay player to reach 100 RBI.

"Everybody's looking for run production -- 100 is certainly a
nice number," Huff said.

Tampa Bay outhit New York 14-10, but stranded 12 runners.

"We wasted a lot of opportunities," manager Lou Piniella
said.

Game notes
Andy Pettitte left the Yankees on Friday because his son
Jared had an asthma attack, Torre said, but the pitcher was
expected back Saturday night. ... Fred McGriff reached 100 RBI for
the Devil Rays in 1999 and 2000. ... Mike Mussina (16-7) was to
start the second game for the Yankees against Carlos Reyes (0-2).
... Derek Jeter was hit on the left pinky in the seventh by Chad
Gaudin's pitch but remained in the game.