Crosby's first homer this season gives Yankees win

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Yankees got one of their biggest hits all season from a most unlikely source.

Rarely used reserve Bubba Crosby led off the bottom of the ninth inning with his first home run this year, giving New York a 3-2 victory Monday night over the Baltimore Orioles.

About 40 minutes later, the rival Red Sox lost 8-7 at Tampa Bay, leaving the Yankees only a half-game out of first place in the AL East and tied with Boston in the loss column.

"I've never hit a walk-off homer ever, anywhere, even in Little League, in my life," Crosby said. "And to hit one here at Yankee Stadium, this time of year, when it counts, it doesn't get any better than that."

Chien-Ming Wang pitched eight stellar innings and Alex Rodriguez
had an RBI single for the surging Yankees, who have won seven of eight and 11 of 15. They remained 1½ games behind Cleveland in the wild-card race.

Shuttled back and forth from Triple-A Columbus, Crosby served as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement most of the year. But he has begun to get semi-regular playing time recently because right fielder Gary Sheffield's strained thigh has relegated him to DH duty.

"When you're in my position, you don't ask questions. You just take what comes," Crosby said. "I felt a couple of times when I went down, I might never come back."

The diminutive outfielder stepped to the plate in the ninth for his 72nd major-league at-bat this season and drove a 1-0 pitch from Eric DuBose (1-3) far over the right-center fence.

"I pretty much felt it when I hit it. I can't hit it much harder than that," Crosby said.

He pumped his fist as he rounded first base and was mobbed at the plate by gleeful teammates. Then he came out for a curtain call to the delight of 51,521 fans.

It was Crosby's second extra-base hit and fifth RBI all year. It also was his third hit of the game -- he had a bunt single and an infield single from the No. 9 spot in the lineup.

"The homer was the last thing I thought would happen," Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo said.

Mariano Rivera (7-4) worked a perfect ninth for the win.

Throwing what scouts call a "heavy" sinker, Wang kept the ball down all night and had Baltimore chopping one weak tapper after another right back to the mound.

"The guys were coming back and saying how much the ball was sinking. We were almost to the point of checking him," Perlozzo said.

The pitcher did a terrific job fielding his position, too, piling up nine assists -- including four straight in the seventh and eighth. The right-hander got 19 groundball outs overall and only one flyout.

"He was throwing 95 mph sinkers running four, five feet," Baltimore's Brian Roberts said. "I don't know how he's doing it."

Wang's brilliant performance could go a long way toward keeping the rookie in the rotation even if Mike Mussina returns from a sore elbow later this week as planned.

"He was great. He's been like that the whole year. It's a win, a win for the team -- but I wish he had won it," Rivera said.

With two outs in the first, Wang gave up three straight singles to Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada and Jay Gibbons as Baltimore went ahead.

The Orioles scored again in the third on Tejada's RBI groundout, and starter Erik Bedard got Sheffield to ground into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the bottom half.

The Yankees kept coming, though. They loaded the bases with none out in the fifth, and Rodriguez's RBI single put them on the board.

With the middle of the lineup coming up, New York figured to take the lead. But Jason Giambi struck out before Sheffield's RBI groundout tied it at 2, and Hideki Matsui fanned with runners at second and third to end the inning.

Game notes
The teams play seven more times this season. ... Giambi started at first after leaving Sunday's game in Toronto because of back spasms. ... Mora failed to run out a tapper to the left of the plate in the fifth and was easily thrown out when the ball spun into fair territory. ... Derek Jeter also had a bunt single for the Yankees. ... Wang threw 68 of his 98 pitches for strikes in his
third start since missing nearly two months with inflammation in his right shoulder. He allowed seven singles, walked one and struck out four. ... Bedard yielded two runs and six hits in six innings, with five strikeouts. He is 0-3 in eight starts since beating Tampa
Bay 5-2 on Aug. 9. ... DuBose did not allow a run in his previous six appearances.

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