for this game

Abreu, Yankees pummel Devil Rays, tie for best record in AL

Sep 26, 2006 - 2:45 AM ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Ticker) -- Bobby Abreu led the New York Yankees into a tie for the best record in the American League.

Abreu had four hits and knocked in four runs, and Jaret Wright pitched six strong innings as the Yankees used a six-run first inning to post a 16-1 blowout victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

With the triumph, New York (94-62) tied idle Detroit for the AL's best record. Prior to Monday's game, the Yankees had lost six of their last 10 games to fall one-half game behind the Tigers in the race for home-field advantage. If the two teams are tied at the end of the season, New York would win the tiebreaker due to its 5-2 record against Detroit this season.

"Once we scored early, we took advantage. We walked a couple of times and we had some great at-bats," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We just seemed to have more life tonight."

Abreu has been an integral part of New York's second-half success, hitting .342 with five homers and 38 RBI since being acquired from Philadelphia at the July 31 trade deadline. He was 4-for-4 with four RBI and three runs scored on Monday.

With two on and none out in the first, Abreu blasted his fifth homer off Jae Seo (1-7) to make it 3-0. After a double by Derek Jeter in the second, the right fielder smacked an RBI single to increase the lead to 7-0.

Bidding to be the Yankees' fourth starter in the postseason, Wright (11-7) allowed one run and five hits, yielding only a solo homer to Ty Wigginton in the sixth.

"I want those guys to hit all day long (in the 26-minute top of the first)," Wright said. "It's a little tough to try to stay loose during a long inning, but you have to stay loose."

Mariano Rivera made a rare appearance in the seventh, Brian Bruney tossed a perfect eighth and Kyle Farnsworth pitched the ninth for New York.

"Mariano was good, he looked smooth," Torre said.

It was only Rivera's second appearance since returning on August 31 from a right forearm problem.

"It looked good today," Rivera said after throwing 12 of 16 pitches for strikes. "Hopefully, everything is in place where it should be."

Hideki Matsui hit a three-run homer to cap the six-run first inning, his third blast since returning from a wrist injury on September 12. He had four RBI and three of the Yankees' season-high 20 hits. Johnny Damon, who entered in a 7-for-38 slump, homered in the third inning.

"I finally hit another home run," Damon said. "Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come. I worked with Don Mattingly before the game and felt better during batting practice."

New York rookie Andy Cannizaro belted his first major league homer in the eighth to make it 13-1.

"Everybody in the dugout got the biggest kick," Torre said. "I think more so than he did. It was probably one of the highlights of the evening for sure."

Seo allowed eight runs and seven hits in only 1 2/3 innings.

"I had problems with my location," Seo said. "What I think is a strike, the umpire thinks is a ball. After that, I lost my concentration."

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Mike Butcher were ejected by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez for arguing balls and strikes in the first inning. Butcher and third base umpire Larry Young were in a heated exchange, screaming at each other chest to chest before several Devil Rays coaches had to escort Butcher to the clubhouse.

"It was just the situation where I was seeking further explanation and I didn't get that explanation and so it just got a little out of control," Maddon said. "It's one of those unfortunate moments. It was one of those moments and hopefully it won't happen again."

Young said Butcher touched him during the dispute.

"Probably, during the course of the argument, but you know ...," Young said. "I don't know (if it's worth a fine or suspension). We're going to make a report to the office (of the commissioner) and that's up to them."

Torre said back spasms would cause Randy Johnson to miss Thursday's start against Baltimore.

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