Yanks Win, But At A Cost

With a win over their division rivals, the Boston Red Sox in extra innings, the New York Yankees moved three games ahead of the Sox in the race for first place. Although the win was an important one, the Yanks main concern was the condition of their reliever, Mariano Rivera. Nursing a 6-3 lead in the 8th inning with their opponents on first and second with no outs, manager Joe Torre elected to bring in Rivera to close out the final two innings.

But after facing just three batters, Rivera felt tightness in his shoulder, and was taken out of the game.

Rivera, who faced minimal work the past week, was summoned to warm up in the eight inning, with starter Orlando Hernandez reaching a high pitch count. Ramiro Mendoza seemed to be the logical choice for Torre to bring into the game, with Rivera rarely facing more than four batters a game, and with Mendoza already warmed up the previous inning. Nonetheless, Rivera trotted out to pitch to the final six batters, something he had not done the entire year.

After striking out Manny Ramirez with runners on second and third, Rivera's first pitch to Jason Varitek was blooped into center field, which scored both runners to cut the lead to 6-5. With three more pitches to third basemen Shea Hillenbrand, Rivera felt a twinge in his right shoulder, and was taken out by Torre. Even though Rivera's shoulder injury could be minor, it could be an issue for the Yankee bullpen, which has been struggling as of late.

While they lost Rivera for the game, the Yanks kept their composure and staved off the Red Sox in the 11th inning. With the score tied at eight going into the 11th, Alfonso Soriano led off the inning with yet another clutch hit, this time a stand up double into left field, which represented the winning run. After an intentional walk to Derek Jeter, a picture perfect sacrifice bunt by Enrique Wilson, and another intentional walk to Bernie Williams, up to the plate walked Robin Ventura, one of the most successful hitters with the bases loaded. With the count 2-1, Ventura grounded the ball to second basemen Ray Sanchez, as Soriano easily scored the decisive run to give the Yanks the victory.

The Yanks seemed to be in control with a 6-2 lead after the fifth inning, but a furious rally by the Sox in the eighth inning left the Yankee lead in the dust. After the Rivera fiasco, Mendoza gave up two sharp base hits, one by Hillenbrand, which advanced Ricky Henderson (who ran for Veritek) to third, and an RBI single by Brian Daubach. That was the end of the night for Mendoza, but the next pitcher, Mike Stanton, did not fare any better. With Hillenbrand on third base, Trot Nixon hit a shallow fly ball to right field, which was caught by Soriano in the outfield grass.. With Hillenbrand tagging up and Soriano throwing home, Hillenbrand slid outside the outstretched arms of catcher Jorge Posada to score another run. The Sox added another run with an RBI single by Jose Offerman, to increase their lead to 8-6.

But the Yanks tied the game in the eighth inning with RBI double by Nick Johnson, and a run scoring single by Soriano. Johnson had an excellent night at the plate, with three hits and three runs scored, with two RBIs.

Behind 2-0 in the second inning, Bernie Williams belted a home run to left field, cutting the lead to one run. Following a RBI single in the fourth inning by Johnson, Shane Spencer was robbed of the Yanks second home run with a long fly ball to deep center-left field, with center fielder Johnny Damon pulling the ball back into the park with his glove. While left fielder Brian Daubach tried to catch the carom off of the wall, Spencer was already on his way to third, with a triple that scored two more runs.

The final game of the three game series will showcase Jeff Weaver on the mound for the Yanks, and John Burkett for the Red Sox.

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