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Yanks Enter Playoffs With Loss


New York Yankees manager Joe Torre gave almost all of his regulars a day off Sunday. Then he gave himself a break, too.

With the Yankees already assured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, Torre turned over the World Series champions to outfielder Paul O'Neill in a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay that ended the regular season.

O'Neill, who bruised his right side and lower back when he crashed into a fence Saturday night, filled Torre's role as manager and Joe Girardi stood in for bench coach Don Zimmer as the Yankees used a lineup featuring one regular catcher Jorge Posada.

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  • "I looked around at the veteran guys. Chili (Davis) didn't want any part of it. He wanted a couple of at-bats," Torre said. "I can't have somebody who's playing be the manager. I was a player-manager for two weeks and didn't do it very well."

    Randy Winn's inside-the-park grand slam for Tampa Bay, however, left O'Neill with few decisions to ponder. The homer off Jeff Juden (0-1) capped a six-run fourth inning that wiped out a 2-0 Yankees lead.

    Eddie Gaillard (1-0) pitched two innings in relief of Cory Lidle to get his second major league victory. The other came two years ago for the Detroit Tigers.

    New York will open the playoffs at home Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers, who lost eight of 12 games to the Yankees during the regular season.

    "They're not an easy task. I know they're record is good against them, but it doesn't mean that we expect anybody to roll over and play dead. That's not a part of what they do," Torre said.

    "Again, I can't put enough emphasis on pitching," the Yankees manager added. "In a five-game series, you really can't fford to stumble. You get a little more air to breath in a seven-game series."

    O'Neill said he was still sore from banging into a low fence in foul territory the previous night, but that he plans to take batting practice during a workout scheduled for Monday at Yankee Stadium.

    Derek Jeter did not play for the Yankees. He finished with a batting average of .349, eight points behind AL leader Nomar Garciaparra of Boston.

    Five of the six runs allowed by Juden in the fourth were unearned. He hit a batter with the bases loaded and the second Tampa Bay run scored on an error by first baseman Jim Leyritz.

    Winn hit a drive over the head of center fielder Chad Curtis. The ball bounced off the wall at an angle, and Winn was nearing third base by the time Curtis finally chased it down.

    It was the second inside-the-park grand slam in the majors this season. Arizona's Tony Womack had one against Houston on July 21.

    The Yankees scored twice in the second inning. One run scored on Jose Guillen's fielding error in right field, and Clay Bellinger drove in the other with a single.

    Hideki Irabu, left out of New York's starting rotation for the first round of the playoffs, pitched two innings out of the bullpen. He allowed two hits and struck out four.

    Notes

  • The Yankees have reached postseason play five consecutive seasons for the first time since 1960-64 when they played in five straight World Series
  • Lidle made his first major league start since June 22, 1997, when he was with the New York Mets. It was his third big league start overall
  • Attendance was announced as 31,292. The Devil Rays drew 1,696,294 this year, down 809,729 from their inaugural season.

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

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