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Yankees Bat By Rays

The New York Yankees moved a step closer to home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs.

Joe Girardi, Tino Martinez and Darryl Strawberry homered in a five-run fourth inning as the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 11-7 Friday night to tie Cleveland for best record in the AL.

The Yankees, who clinched the AL East title Thursday night, matched the Indians at 97-63 with two games remaining. If they finish tied, New York would have home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs because of a better head-to-head record this year.

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Game Summary

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  • "We're in control of our own destiny," Yankees outfielder Shane Spencer said. "We just have to win our own games. You can't worry about them."

    Fred McGriff hit a three-run homer for Tampa Bay. It was McGriff's 390th career homer, which tied him with Graig Nettles for 34th place on the career list.

    Andy Pettitte, who gave up six runs, six hits and six walks in four-plus innings, was chased after McGriff's homer pulled the Devil Rays to 8-6.

    "I obviously didn't like the way he pitched tonight," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He had good stuff and maybe got a little defensive... just trying to be to fine."

    In his last two starts, Pettitte has allowed 10 runs and 16 hits in 10 innings.

    "The ball wasn't going where I wanted it," Pettitte said. "I was falling behind everybody and walks always hurt me."

    Ramiro Mendoza (9-9) gave up ne run and two hits in 2 2-3 innings. Mariano Rivera got four outs for his career-high 44th save, including 21 in a row.

    Tampa Bay, which has lost 12 of its last 14 home games, must win the final two games of the season to become the fourth expansion team to win 70 games in its first or second year.

    The game was the longest nine-inning contest in Tropicana Field's brief history, lasting three hours, 53 minutes. There were 18 strikeouts and 17 walks in the game.

    "At times, it did (seem that long)," said Tampa Bay manager Larry Rothschild. "When you get that many walks in game, there will be pitching changes."

    Ten pitchers threw a combined 357 pitches.

    Tampa Bay's Rolando Arrojo (7-12) allowed seven runs, eight hits and five walks in 3 2-3 innings.

    "They let the fastball go and batted everything else," Arrojo said. "There was no justification. They hit me."

    Girardi led off the fourth with a solo homer and Martinez hit a three-run shot off Arrojo for a 7-3 lead. Strawberry added a 425-foot solo drive against Mike Duvall, a ball that struck the support beam of an overhanging catwalk approximately 120 feet above the field.

    "That was a monster .. It was unbelievable," Torre said.

    "It was deep into the night," Rothschild said.

    "That's the best I've ever hit the ball," said Strawberry, who has 1,000 career RBIs. "It was probably once in a lifetime. I don't think I could ever hit a ball that hard or high again."

    It was the Yankees' second three-homer inning and 17th multihomer inning. Martinez and Strawberry homered back-to-back, the eighth time New York has accomplished the feat this season.

    New York scored three times in the seventh inning. Derek Jeter had an RBI double and Bernie Williams added a two-run single, putting the Yankees up 11-6.

    Jose Canseco drove in pair for the Devil Rays with a third-inning double. He has 17 RBIs in his past 20 games.

    Jim Morris, Tampa Bay's 35-year-old rookie, pitched one-third of inning in his fourth appearance and walked one.

    ^Notes Although the Devil Rays have not decided whether to exercise his option, 3B Wade Boggs is heavily leaning toward playing somewhere next season. "I'm not ready to quit," Boggs said. "The fire is still burning." Boggs has resumed his normal offseason workout regiment following riht knee surgery on Sept. 7.

  • Rivera has not allowed a run in his last 27 appearances, covering 29 innings.
  • Torre plans to announce on Saturday whether Roger Clemens or Orlando Hernandez will start the Yankees playoff opener on Tuesday.
  • Kevin and Roger Maris Jr. took part in the ceremonial first pitch on the 38th anniversary of their father hitting his 61st home run.
  • Four players Williams, Strawberry, Bubba Trammell and Tony Graffanino walked three times.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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