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On Steinbrenner tribute night, Rays lose to Yanks in 9th

11:44 PM, Jul 16, 2010   |    comments
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Nick Swisher provided the most fitting tribute to George Steinbrenner.

Swisher hit a game-winning single with two outs in the ninth inning and the New York Yankees ended a most emotional Friday evening by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4.

More on: George Steinbrenner
Photo Gallery: George Steinbrenner 1930-2010

On a night when manager Joe Girardi cried, captain Derek Jeter's face went flush as he spoke to the crowd and closer Mariano Rivera placed two long-stemmed roses across home plate to remember Steinbrenner and beloved public address announcer Bob Sheppard, the Yankees won -- what better way for them to honor their owner?

 

 

Swisher hit a tying home run in the eighth, then lined a single that sent Curtis Granderson sliding home for the victory in a matchup of the teams with the best records in baseball. The Yankees streamed from the dugout to celebrate, and Swisher wound up way out in right field, surrounded by jumping teammates.

The joyful ending was in sharp contrast to earlier events that honored Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday, two days after the passing of Sheppard.

A 15-minute pregame tribute included a 2-minute moment of absolute silence. Not a single fan shouted out, and the only sounds were the flags flapping at half-staff and a passing subway.

Crowds snapped pictures of Steinbrenner's statue in the main lobby and quietly gathered around a makeshift memorial outside another gate.

 

It was quiet inside, by design. To honor Sheppard, who was 99 and announced players in dulcet tones for more than a half-century, there were no PA introductions. Even the Bleacher Creatures in right-center field held off on their daily roll call.

The Yankees wore patches for Steinbrenner and Sheppard. One included "The Boss" and the other featured a microphone. Between innings, the video board showed clips of Steinbrenner, including his skits on "Saturday Night Live" and commercials with Billy Martin.

When the game was over, a recording of Sheppard played over the sound system. "Thank you for coming to the game," he said.

Rivera (3-1) took over in the ninth and B.J. Upton led with a broken-bat looper toward Alex Rodriguez at third base. Rodriguez ducked to avoid the helicoptering jagged barrel, and the ball ticked off his glove. Rivera overcame the hit by picking off Upton at first, and ended the inning by getting Evan Longoria to look at strike three, prompting the Rays star to slam his bat.

Granderson opened the bottom of the ninth with a single against Randy Choate (2-3). Ramiro Pena sacrificed, Brett Gardner walked and Jeter, swinging big, struck out. Swisher lined a single and Granderson beat right fielder Gabe Kapler's throw.

CC Sabathia and James Shields began the day going in different directions, and both wound up with no-decisions. Sabathia had won eight straight outings, Shields had lost eight of nine starts.

Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada hit consecutive home runs off Shields in the sixth to tie it at 3. Cano connected with two outs and moments after pitching coach Jim Hickey visited the mound, Posada sent a 3-0 delivery into the second deck in right field.

Sabathia left trailing 4-3. Tampa Bay took the lead in the seventh on an RBI groundout by Ben Zobrist, set up by Swisher's ill-advised throw from right field.

Swisher homered off Joaquin Benoit in the eighth.

A season after the Yankees christened their new stadium by celebrating a World Series title, the ballpark was plunged into silence.

So it was, too, in the days of old Yankee Stadium. Famed for hosting championship parties, the park also was the site for many of baseball's most solemn occasions -- Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man" speech, Babe Ruth propped on a bat and bidding farewell, an empty catcher's box for Thurman Munson.

Notes

The Yankees and Tampa Bay have split six games this year. They play 12 more times. ... Tampa Bay flashed its gloves in the fifth. Upton charged in to make a sliding catch on Gardner's leadoff blooper to center, then Kapler jumped high to snare Swisher's drive to right. ... Saturday is Old-Timers Day at the stadium. The 1950 championship team is being honored, with Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra among seven players from that club expected to attend.

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(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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