Yanks Salvage Win From White Sox

Thursday's game against the White Sox looked like it might be an encore performance from the previous two nights when the Yankees were outscored 24-4. But a five-run first inning against rookie pitcher Neal Cotts put the Yankees ahead for good. The Bombers hung on for a 7-5 victory, salvaging a game from the three-game series.

Yankee starter Mike Mussina ran into trouble right from the start. He allowed a one-out single to Carlos Lee in the top of the first inning and then walked Magglio Ordonez one out later. Carl Everett, who piled up four hits on the day, laced a single to left that put the White Sox up 1-0, and Paul Konerko followed with another RBI single to give Chicago a two-run lead.

But the Yankees came storming back in the bottom of the frame. Alfonso Soriano led off with a double and, after surrendering walks to Nick Johnson and Derek Jeter to load the bases, Cotts served up an RBI single to Bernie Williams that cut the lead in half.

Ruben Sierra then ripped a double down the left field line that cleared the bases when Lee couldn't field the ball cleanly.

One out and two walks later Cotts was forced from the game in favor of Dan Wright. Wright gave up a sacrifice fly to John Flaherty that gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead before ending the inning by striking out Soriano.

Mussina (15-7) settled down from the shaky first inning, allowing just a solo home run to Everett in the fourth. Mussina finished his day after the sixth inning, allowing three runs on eight hits and a walk while fanning three batters.

The Yankees tacked on a run in the sixth on a great play by Flaherty. Aaron Boone doubled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on Juan Rivera's sacrifice. Flaherty dropped down a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher, allowing Boone to score from third to give the Yanks an insurance run.

The White Sox drew closer in the eighth on back-to-back RBI hits by Everett and Konerko that cut the lead to one run. Gabe White came on in relief of Jeff Nelson and got Tony Graffanino to pop out to second base.

Mariano Rivera entered the game to record the final four outs and notch his 29th save of the season.

The Yankees tacked one more run on in the eighth on Soriano's single to left. Boone scored on the play, but Flaherty was thrown out at the plate when he tried to score all the way from first.

Cotts (1-1) suffered his first major league loss. He allowed five runs on three hits and four walks in just 2/3 of an inning. Wright pitched five strong innings in relief, allowing just a run on two hits and a walk.

The Yankees next head to Boston for a key three-game series with the Red Sox. The Yankees will be either four or five games ahead of Boston when the series begins, and a sweep in either direction would have huge playoff ramifications. Jose Contreras (4-1, 3.62) will look to build on his strong first outing since coming off the DL when he gets the start for the Yankees. Derek Lowe (13-6, 4.66) will get the start for Boston. Game one is Friday at 7:05 pm.

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