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Matsui's single in ninth beats Devil Rays

4/12/2003

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hideki Matsui made history with the first
"sayonara'' hit for the New York Yankees.

Matsui's bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the
ninth inning Saturday helped the Yankees match their best start
ever with a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for their
ninth win in 10 games.

"I put the team in a bad spot,'' said Matsui, who hit into an
inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the seventh. "I
was relieved to get that hit at the very end.''

New York has won five straight -- with Matsui providing big hits
in three of those games -- to tie the start of the 1988 team. No
Yankees team has ever started a season 10-1.

Matsui also stranded two runners in the first and fifth innings
and was 0-for-4 before his latest big moment in New York.

"I'm happy to come up in situations where there's a lot of
pressure to make something happen,'' Matsui said through an
interpreter. "Maybe if I didn't get that hit I wouldn't have come
back alive. I might have been bombarded by the fans.''

Not likely.

Matsui is quickly becoming a fan favorite. He became the first
Yankee to hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium
against Minnesota on Tuesday and drove in both runs in a 2-0 win
over the Twins on Thursday.

They didn't even boo after his double play in the seventh inning
and stood and cheered following his game-ending hit -- which are
called "sayonara'' hits in Japan.

"We're certainly giving him a lot of opportunities to be
dramatic,'' New York's Todd Zeile said. "The true sign of a
professional is that after the first time with the bases loaded
when he tried to do too much and hit into a double play, he didn't
let the same mistake happen.''

Zeile started the winning rally with one out in the ninth
against Travis Harper (0-1) when he reached on third baseman Damion
Easley's second error of the game.

"I had it in there and when I went to make the turn, I didn't
have it in there,'' Easley said. "You can't give any team extra
outs, especially the Yankees.''

Jason Giambi followed with a hard single to right field and
Bernie Williams walked to load the bases.

Matsui then hit on 0-1 pitch in the hole between shortstop and
third base to score Zeile with the winning run. The Yankees poured
out of the dugout to congratulate Matsui at first base.

"He uses the whole field, which makes him really tough,''
Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "To bounce back from that double
play was big for him and big for us.''

Zeile hit a two-run homer in the second and Bubba Trammell went
4-for-4 with a two-run double in the second inning. Antonio Osuna
(1-1) pitched a perfect ninth for the win.

Rookie Rocco Baldelli went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs
and an RBI for the Devil Rays. Baldelli has hit safely in all 11
games this season.

Only two players since 1990 have started their careers with
longer hitting streaks than Baldelli's. Ryan McGuire hit in 12
straight in 1997 for Montreal and Juan Pierre hit in 16 consecutive
games for Colorado in 2000.

But Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella was too upset by his team's
shoddy fielding to find much positive in this game. The Devil Rays
have committed an AL-high 16 errors.

"What I don't like is the errors we put up on that error list
every game,'' Piniella said. "I'm getting sick of it.''

The Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Joe Kennedy on the
big hits by Trammell and Zeile before Tampa Bay fought back against
Jeff Weaver.

Baldelli led off the fourth inning with a double and Huff then
lined a ball off Weaver's rear end for a single.

Trainer Steve Donohue and Torre rushed out to check on Weaver,
who stayed in the game after taking a few warmup tosses.

Travis Lee followed with an RBI single and Ben Grieve hit a
sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Baldelli added an RBI single in the fifth to make it 4-3 and
scored the tying run in the seventh. He doubled with two outs to
knock out Weaver.

Lefty Chris Hammond came on to face the left-handed Huff, who
hit a drive to the wall in right-center that nicked off Williams'
glove for a double.

Weaver allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings to
remain the only Yankees starter without a win. The other four
members of the rotation are each 2-0.

Kennedy allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings.

Game notes
Tampa Bay's starters are 0-4 with an 8.25 ERA. The Yankees'
starters are 8-0 with a 2.43 ERA. ... Piniella fell to 56-57 in his
career against the Yankees, the first team he managed. ... Yankees
SS Erick Almonte committed his fourth error of the season.