Yankees beat Nathan to avoid Minny sweep
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The Yankees blew a 9-3 lead and trailed 10-9 before scoring four times in the ninth to avoid the three-game sweep at the Metrodome. New York wrapped up a nine-game road trip at 5-4. After Minnesota scored twice in the eighth against Tom Gordon to grab a 10-9 lead, Joe Nathan came on in an attempt to close it out for the Twins. Nathan retired Derek Jeter to start the ninth, but Sheffield drilled a pitch into the left-center field seats for his 30th home run to tie the contest. "I was thinking just get on base and give A-Rod a chance to win the ballgame," said Sheffield. "I was just trying to be aggressive." Rodriguez then singled, stole second and scored the go-ahead run on Matsui's base hit to right. Matsui was thrown out in a run-down, but the Yankees added two more runs. Jorge Posada walked and John Olerud singled to chase Nathan (1-1) in favor of J.C. Romero, and pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra laced a single to score Posada and the throw from the outfield skipped past third base to allow Olerud to score the final run of the game. Mariano Rivera struck out the side in the ninth to nail it down for his 41st save. Gordon (4-3), despite giving up the lead, was credited with the victory. "These guys don't quit," said Yankee manager Joe Torre. "I'm very proud of them. I think they found out something else about themselves tonight. You can tell a lot about your ballclub when you have to come back in games like this." Sheffield finished 3-for-4 with five runs batted in and three runs scored, while Rodriguez was 3-for-5 with a homer in his return to the lineup after missing five games with the flu and a suspension. "I felt focused through the whole ballgame," said Sheffield. "We had guys in scoring position and we got them in." Shannon Stewart was 4-for-5 with a go-ahead, two-run triple in the eighth inning for Minnesota, which was trying for its first three-game sweep of the Yankees since 1991. "It was a good series," said Twins outfielder Lew Ford. "We end up losing this last game, but if you look at the whole picture, we showed some people some things and really took it to the Yankees." The Twins lost centerfielder Torii Hunter with a strained neck and shoulder after he crashed into the fence. Hunter was hurt in the top of the fifth inning when he hit the fence while chasing Posada's drive to the gap in right- center field. After remaining on his back for several minutes, Hunter was helped to his feet and carted off the field. He is considered day-to-day. Minnesota started its comeback with five runs in the seventh inning. Cristian Guzman led off with a walk and scored on a one-out double by Luis Rivas, chasing Yankee starter Orlando Hernandez. Stewart greeted Paul Quantrill with a single and Jacque Jones doubled home both runners before scoring on a triple to the right field corner by Lew Ford. Gordon then took over for Quantrill and retired Justin Morneau on a ground ball, but Ford scored to pull the Twins within 9-8. Jose Offerman struck out to end the inning. The Twins then moved in front in the eighth. Corey Koskie led off with a single and raced to third on a base hit by Guzman. Gordon retired Rob Bowen on a pop up and Rivas on strikes, but Stewart lined a triple just beyond the reach of Sheffield in right-center field to chase home both runners and put Minnesota ahead. "The guy's a tough hitter and you can't make any mistakes with him," said Gordon. Nathan, though, blew a save for only the second time in 36 opportunities and gave up a run for the first time since June 6. "When you're on that high and you're going well, all it is is what you did yesterday. It's over now," said Nathan. Minnesota starter Carlos Silva was roughed up for seven runs on nine hits in five-plus innings. Hernandez was in line for the victory for New York, despite yielding five runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Yankees still improved to 8-0 in his starts this season. New York grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Bernie Williams led off with a base hit, took second on a bunt and scored on a double by Sheffield. The Twins tied it in the bottom of the inning with the aid of Hernandez's wildness. Stewart led off with an infield single and Hunter drew a walk with one out. A wild pitch advanced the runners a base and another pitch in the dirt allowed Stewart to score. The Yankees snapped the tie with five runs in the fifth. Posada started the inning with a double on the play in which Hunter was hurt and scored on a one- out base hit Miguel Cairo. After a walk to Kenny Lofton, Williams singled home Cairo and Sheffield capped the big inning with a two-out homer over the wall in left field, giving New York a 6-1 advantage. Posada started the Yankee sixth with another double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a base hit by Olerud. The Twins chipped away with a pair of runs in the sixth. Jones and Ford started the inning with singles and Morneau grounded into a force out at third. Offerman doubled in a run and Koskie added a sacrifice fly, but the run probably shouldn't have counted as replays showed Offerman was thrown out at third base for third out before Morneau crossed the plate. Rodriguez's two-run homer in the seventh, his 30th of the year, gave the Yankees a seemingly comfortable 9-3 cushion. "I thought we had them when we had a six-run lead the second time," Torre quipped. "They're a good team, we knew that coming in here, and they don't quit. They have a very aggressive style of play." Sheffield has 29 career multi-homer games, including two this year.