Williams' homer sends Rangers to another loss

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Yankees kept their cool after

Mariano Rivera blew a save for the first time in more than four

months. They simply turned to another player they've always relied

on in the clutch.

Bernie Williams hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning, and the

Yankees overcame Rivera's first blown save since the third game of

the season to beat the fading Texas Rangers 7-5 Saturday.

Rivera had converted a career-best 31 consecutive saves before

allowing two runs in the ninth -- one day after the Yankees didn't

use him in a save situation because he had been overworked of late.

"I felt great for him," Williams said. "It was great for us

to pick him up."

Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield each homered and drove in two

runs for the Yankees (63-52), who won their third straight and

moved 11 games over .500 for the first time this season.

Rodriguez's AL-leading 34th homer was a mammoth shot to left, and

it came one pitch after Sheffield's drive in the third inning.

Kevin Mench had four hits, including a two-run homer off Mike

Mussina in the eighth and a tying, two-run single in the ninth for

the Rangers, who have dropped a season-high six straight. Their

three losses in this series have come by a combined four runs.

"It's very disappointing," losing pitcher Kameron Loe said.

"We're battling and barely coming up short. We've still got to go

out there tomorrow and grind."

Tino Martinez, who replaced Jason Giambi at first base for

defense, led off the 11th with a single off Loe (5-4). Williams hit

the next pitch over the right-center fence for his ninth homer of

the season.

Trying to turn around a disappointing season in which he lost

his starting job in center field, Williams has homered in two

straight games -- including his first game-ending shot since Sept.

30 against Minnesota. Though Williams is hitting only .245 and has

a sore shoulder, Yankees manager Joe Torre plans to use his

reliable late-season performer much more down the stretch.

"I told him the other day ... I had a talk with him and I said

to him, 'This is your time of year," Torre said. "We don't look

at statistics, we look at wins."

Aaron Small (4-0) pitched a scoreless 11th for the win -- helped

by Rodriguez's run-saving, diving stop of Sandy Alomar's shot down

the third-base line to end the inning. One night after starter

Shawn Chacon pitched in relief, Small did the same for the Yankees

-- though he is expected to move to the bullpen next week when Jaret

Wright returns from the disabled list.

Rivera squandered a save opportunity for the first time since

blowing his first two chances of the season against Boston on April

5 and 6. He allowed one-out hits by Hank Blalock and Alfonso

Soriano, then plunked Phil Nevin with a pitch. Rivera got a force

play at the plate on Gary Matthews Jr.'s dribbler, but Mench

singled to left to tie it at 5.

"Mo has been great all year," Rodriguez said. "We can't

expect him to be perfect for six months."

The Rangers' rally spoiled a superb start by Mussina, who

pitched into the eighth in sweltering heat. He allowed three runs

and six hits before departing to a big ovation after Mench's

two-run homer with one out. He struck out eight and walked none.

Soriano also homered for the Rangers, on their longest skid

since an eight-game losing streak from June 15-23, 2003.

Juan Dominguez, recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A

Oklahoma, allowed five runs and nine hits in his first start of the

season. He had a career-high 10 strikeouts

Sheffield struck out in the first and looked bad while swinging

through the first two pitches of his second at-bat. But he hit the

next pitch over the left-field fence for his 24th homer, giving New

York a 3-0 lead.

Rodriguez drove the next pitch into the area where the ambulance

parks, well beyond Monument Park. The Yankees estimated the homer

at 485 feet.

"That was ridiculous," Martinez said. "I've never seen a ball

hit that far."

Rodriguez's homer was his 20th this season at Yankee Stadium,

breaking the record held by Joe DiMaggio (1937) and Sheffield

(2004) for a right-handed batter.

Soriano hit the first pitch of the fifth for his 29th homer.

Dominguez trailed 2-0 after 11 pitches. Rodriguez and Hideki

Matsui hit consecutive run-scoring singles.

The Yankees added a run in the seventh when Cano legged out a

two-out double and scored on Sheffield's single.Game notes
The Yankees had played seven straight one-run games at

home. ... Sheffield has 439 homers, passing Andre Dawson for 31st

place on the career list. ... Dominguez's only major-league win

came last June 5 at Yankee Stadium, an 8-1 victory. ... The Yankees

recorded a 9-4-6 force at second in the third inning. Sheffield

tried to nonchalantly catch Alomar's short fly, but the ball popped

out of his glove. He picked it up and threw in time for the Yankees

to force Mench at second. ... With the gametime temperature at 95

degrees, the Yankees showed some wishful thinking by playing "Let

It Snow" in the sixth inning.