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Crawford, Devil Rays roll past Yankees

Sep 24, 2006 - 8:40 PM ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Ticker) -- The New York Yankees are eyeing home-field advantage throughout the upcoming playoffs. Carl Crawford apparently does not want that to happen.

Crawford had three hits and three RBI to lead the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to an 11-4 victory over the Yankees.

The Devil Rays' leader in nearly every offensive category, Crawford ignited a six-run rally in the fourth inning. He ripped an RBI single off New York starter Mike Mussina (14-7) to forge a 1-1 tie.

Ty Wigginton lined a two-run single two batters later, B.J. Upton added an RBI double and rookie Ben Zobrist capped the outburst with a two-run base hit, pushing the lead to 6-1.

"Any time you can win a couple in a row against these, guys it's important," Crawford said. "We want to build some momentum and keep it going and not let up."

Wigginton belted his team-leading 23rd home run in the sixth inning and Rocco Baldelli added a two-run single later in the frame for the Devil Rays, who improved to 5-12 this season against the Yankees.

Crawford capped the five-run sixth inning with a two-run triple, his league-leading 15th this season.

"It's not something I think about, but it's nice," Crawford said. "What's nicer is getting something established here and building something special, and that's what we are striving for."

"That is his signature play," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Crawford. "He breaks for a triple out of the box and takes whatever else."

Tampa Bay provided plenty of support for rookie starter Brian Stokes (1-0), who recorded his first career win. The righthander yielded three runs, seven hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.

"I had good arm speed and a nice breaking ball that kept them off-balance," Stokes said. "It's nice when everything is going in your favor."

"I love this guy and his composure," Maddon said of Stokes. "Once he regains his curveball like he had today, he is going to be very good."

Mussina struggled in one of his final tuneups for the playoffs, surrendering six runs - two earned - and seven hits in 4 2/3 frames.

"Things went from really good to really bad in a hurry," Mussina said. "Sometimes big innings happen with a bunch of small things, and they added up today."

The Yankees survived a scary moment in the fifth inning when Mussina was struck on the thumb by a line drive off the bat of Crawford. The righthander was lifted immediately but does not think the injury will be an issue.

"It's just a bruise," Mussina said. "It's not a worry."

"He'll be fine," Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Mussina. "We were planning on taking him out after that inning."

New York (93-62) fell one-half game behind Detroit (94-62) for the best record in the American League and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

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