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Cantu, Huff Help Rays Rally Past Yankees

July 9, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Rocco Baldelli had a flight to catch, so he wasn’t excited about the prospect of playing extra innings. The speedy Tampa Bay center fielder made two big defensive plays in the late innings and doubled before scoring the winning run Sunday in the Devil Rays’ 6-5 come-from-behind victory over the New York Yankees.

``He made two plays that I wanted to applaud myself,″ Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ``It was spectacular, what can you say?″

In one of his best all-around performances since coming off the disabled list after missing 221 games because of leg, knee and elbow injuries, Baldelli threw out Melky Cabrera trying to score the go-ahead run for New York in the seventh inning and made a diving catch to rob Derek Jeter of an extra-base hit in the ninth.

In between the defensive gems, he doubled in the seventh and scored on Jorge Cantu’s RBI single off Scott Proctor (2-2). With the Yankees needing a run to tie, he sped up at the last moment to get into position to make the catch on Jeter’s line drive in the ninth.

``Well,″ Baldelli said, explaining the adjustment. ``I had a 6:15 flight.″

Cantu and Aubrey Huff homered and drove in three runs apiece, helping Tampa Bay rally from a five-run deficit.

Cantu’s two-run homer off Ron Villone erased a 5-3 New York lead in the fifth inning. He broke the tie in the seventh after Baldelli doubled to left and Proctor walked Huff intentionally.

The Yankees threatened to go ahead in the seventh when Cabrera reached on a bunt single and continued to second on catcher Dioner Navarro’s throwing error. Baldelli showed how far he’s come from Tommy John surgery by throwing out Cabrera trying to score from second base on Bernie Williams’ two-out single off Tim Corcoran (4-0).

``That’s the first good one I’ve made since I’ve come back, so it felt good″ Baldelli said. ``I tried to throw it as hard as I could and hoped it was on line.″

With owner George Steinbrenner watching from his private box at Tropicana Field, the Yankees took a 5-0 lead on Jason Giambi’s 11th career grand slam and an error that allowed a fifth run to score against Tampa Bay starter Casey Fossum in the third.

Huff began the Devil Rays’ comeback with a three-run homer off New York starter Kris Wilson in the bottom of the third.

Corcoran allowed three hits, but kept the Yankees from scoring in one-plus innings to get the win. Brian Meadows pitched the ninth for his fifth save in five opportunities.

``It’s frustrating,″ said New York’s Alex Rodriguez, who was 0-for-11 in the series with five strikeouts. ``We thought it had the potential to be a blowout. We didn’t add more runs to the board.″

The victory denied New York a sweep of the three-game series and gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 record against first-place Boston and the second-place Yankees during a difficult seven-game homestand heading into the All-Star break.

Wilson allowed three runs and five hits in his first major league start since 2003, when he was 6-3 with the Kansas City Royals. Villone retired the first five batters he faced before Huff doubled and Cantu hit his sixth homer with two outs in the fifth.

Fossum settled down after walking two and hitting Jeter in the right foot with a pitch to load the bases for Giambi, who hit his first grand slam since Sept. 23, 2003, against the Chicago White Sox.

The Yankees added a fifth run in the third when Williams doubled and scored when Cantu let Andy Phillips’ routine grounder skip past him for an error.

It was a major league-high 18th time the Yankees have scored five or more runs in an inning.

Fossum allowed five runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out four and retired seven in a row before being replaced by Corcoran.

Notes: Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said a tender middle finger on LHP Scott Kazmir’s throwing hand is not a problem and the team would have no concern about him pitching in the All-Star game on Tuesday night. A callous on the finger softened during Saturday’s start against the Yankees, but Kazmir said it didn’t affect his performance. ... Yankees C Jorge Posada did not start after playing the first two games of the series. He pinch-hit in the eighth and struck out with the tying run on second. Posada said before the game that his wife and children were aboard a flight from New York to Tampa in which a U.S. Army soldier was tackled by passengers after running down the aisle and ramming the cockpit door on Thursday. ``It’s a weird experience. Nothing happened, thank God for that,″ Posada said. ``I’m glad that everything is OK. You don’t want to experience it, but it happened and you go on.″

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