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Howell, Devil Rays blank Yankees at home

Sep 24, 2006 - 2:07 AM ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Ticker) -- The New York Yankees' lineup was back at full strength, but it didn't matter to rookie J.P. Howell.

Howell pitched seven strong innings and Ty Wigginton drove in three runs as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays posted an 8-0 victory over the Yankees.

New York manager Joe Torre had been resting many of his regular players after the team clinched its ninth straight American League East Division title on Wednesday. However, on Saturday, nearly all the healthy everyday players were back in the lineup.

Howell (1-3) mowed them down, allowing only three hits in the longest outing of his career. His previous high had been 6 2/3 innings in a 4-3 loss to Seattle on September 2.

"Anytime you go against that lineup you have to have your best stuff," Howell said. "I had a nice changeup and that was a huge factor.

"I had control. When I made a bad pitch, I didn't show it and I just bounced right back."

Dan Miceli pitched the eighth and hard-throwing rookie Juan Salas hurled the ninth for the Devil Rays.

Wigginton belted a solo homer off Randy Johnson (17-11) with one out in the fourth to give the Devil Rays a 3-0 lead. With runners on second and third in the seventh, Wigginton blooped a two-run single to increase the lead to 7-0. The first baseman had three hits and three RBI.

"He loves the moment and thrives on it," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He isn't going to backdown and loves those challenges. This time in a big situation, he won out."

B.J. Upton hit his first homer of the season in the sixth to make it 5-0. It was his first blast since September 17, 2004 against Toronto.

"He (Randy Johnson) got a pitch up and I got a great swing on it," Upton said. "I was able to turn on it which is something I've been working on a lot."

Johnson yielded five runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked one.

"I got my work in, but I wasn't pleased with the outcome," Johnson said. "I got beat by my third best pitch."

"I thought he had a good slider because he was getting a lot of swings and misses," Torre said of Johnson. "He just missed a few locations."

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