Lieber Ks season-high 9

NEW YORK (AP) -- Now the New York Yankees have quite a twosome at

the top of the lineup.

Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui each hit two-run doubles, and

Jon Lieber struck out a season-high nine to lead the Yankees past

the slumping Tampa Bay Devil Rays 11-2 on Tuesday night.

New York's new 1-2 punch sparked the offense again. Leadoff

hitter Derek Jeter had three of the Yankees' 16 hits, including a

two-run single. Rodriguez, moved up to the No. 2 spot Monday for

the first time since 1999, had three RBI for the second

consecutive game.

"I like it a lot," manager Joe Torre said. "It looks like

Alex is relaxed there, very comfortable, very aggressive."

Gary Sheffield had four hits and Bernie Williams homered for the

Yankees, who have three comeback wins in a row to match their

season high at 34 games over .500. New York maintained its 2½ game

lead in the AL East over Boston, which beat Oakland 7-1.

Rocco Baldelli hit a two-run homer in the first inning for Tampa

Bay, which lost its ninth straight -- its longest skid since also

dropping nine in a row from April 25 to May 10, 2002.

"We need to get one, and we need to get one soon," Baldelli


Every Yankees starter scored. Sheffield's fourth hit in the

seventh prompted chants of "MVP! MVP!" Matsui, the new cleanup

hitter, snapped an 0-for-16 skid with three hits.

"Just from a mental standpoint, maybe it's something fresh, a

change," Matsui said through a translator. "I still take the same


The Yankees were sharp in almost every facet despite a daylong

wait Monday for an afternoon doubleheader that got turned into a

single night game. Hurricane Frances caused the Devil Rays to

arrive three hours after the scheduled start -- but the Yankees were

annoyed at the commissioner's office for the way everything was


The postponed game will be made up Wednesday as part of a

doubleheader, beginning at 4:05 p.m.

"It's men at work right now. We've got two big ones tomorrow,"

Rodriguez said.

It was the second big performance in a row for Lieber (11-8),

who pitched seven shutout innings in a 9-1 victory over Cleveland

last Thursday. The sinkerballer allowed nine hits and walked none

in 6 2-3 innings before jogging off the mound to a rousing ovation

from the crowd of 33,518.

"I feel better than I have all year," he said.

Matsui's two-run double off Jorge Sosa (3-4) tied it at 2 in the

first, and Rodriguez gave New York a 4-2 lead with a two-run double

to right-center in the second.

Sheffield followed with a single to center, but Baldelli made a

strong throw to the plate to get Rodriguez, who flattened catcher

Brook Fordyce with a high, hard hit.

"It was the first time I've ever done that. You know, I never

saw the plate," Rodriguez said. "It's a war for us right now and

we've got to do whatever it takes."

Fordyce stayed down for a minute, but remained in the game.

"When my fingers starting tingling, I said, `OK, I've got a

shoulder,' and the feeling came back," he said. "I thought it was

a good play all around by everyone."

Williams hit his 18th homer leading off the fourth, the first

for the Yankees in 38 innings spanning five games.

New York broke it open with six runs in the seventh. One scored

on an error by reliever Chad Gaudin, and John Olerud hit an RBI

double. Miguel Cairo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded,

Jeter hit a two-run single and Rodriguez added an RBI infield


"You give a bunch of veteran players a few extra outs and they

know what to do with them," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said.

Sosa gave up five runs and nine hits in four-plus innings.Game notes
It was New York's major league-leading 55th comeback

victory. ... The Yankees are 12-4 against Tampa Bay this season,

including 7-0 at Yankee Stadium. They have won 21 of the last 26

meetings. ... New York slugger Jason Giambi is scheduled to begin a

rehab assignment Wednesday with Triple-A Columbus, which hosts

Richmond in the first game of the International League playoffs.

... RHP Steve Karsay pitched a perfect ninth for the Yankees, his

second outing since coming back from shoulder and back operations

that sidelined him since the end of the 2002 season. ... Yankees C

Dioner Navarro made his major league debut by catching the ninth.

... Cairo extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games.

... LF Aubrey Huff rejoined the Devil Rays and went 3-for-4. He

missed Monday night's game because he couldn't get from his home,

which is in a low-lying area, to Tropicana Field and did not

accompany the team to New York. ... The Devil Rays are 0-2 on their

14-game road trip, the longest in franchise history, and have lost

20 of their past 24 games away from home. ... Tampa Bay is 18-40

since it was a season-high two games over .500 (40-38) on July 3.