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YANKS AT THEIR WORST IN LOSS TO TWINS

The New York Yankees have had about as many losing streaks this year as there have been days Monica Lewinsky's name has not appeared in the newspaper. The Yankees were the first to admit the way they reached their latest losing skid was not appropriate; in fact, it was wrong.

With a season-high five errors and a highly ineffective combination of relievers filling in for an injured starter, the Yankees lost to the Minnesota Twins, 9-4, Thursday night at the Metrodome. The loss completed what is only the second series sweep of the Yankees this season and put them into just their seventh losing streak since opening day.

Fittingly, the rare occasion was marked by complete and utter breakdowns. The Yankees had great difficulty catching the ball, pitching the ball and hitting the ball in what was perhaps their worst performance of the season.

"It's not one you want on the highlight film," said Chuck Knoblauch, who was ridiculed at every turn the past two days by the same fans who cheered him when he was a member of the Twins. "Luckily, we haven't really had any of these this year. I guess it was time for us to get it and get it out of our system."

The Yankees had not been swept in a series since they lost the first two games of the season in Anaheim en route to their only three-game losing streak of the year. They had not lost consecutive games since July 19-20, when the Toronto Blue Jays and the Detroit Tigers beat them. Thursday night was the first time since June 28, against the Mets at Shea Stadium, the Yankees did not ever lead, ending their major league-record streak at 48.

Now the Yankees have a new streak, albeit a short one that does not figure to last long. And the Twins have a streak and a distinction that very well could last the remainder of the season. The Yankees and Twins are done with each other this year, and the Twins won four of the 11 games. That's not much to brag about until you consider that no other team has beaten the Yankees more than three times this season.

Mike Buddie, pitching in place of Hideki Irabu (bruised instep), and Graeme Lloyd were charged with eight runs (only four earned) on nine hits in six innings. And the Yankees got only one run on three hits in the first five innings against Frankie Rodriguez, he of the 6.57 ERA before the first pitch.

"We stunk," said Joe Girardi.

Clemens blanks Mariners

SEATTLE -- Sure, Pedro Martinez and David Cone are having great seasons. But how about that big guy still pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays?

Despite playing on a noncontender, Roger Clemens is going so well that he's got to be given consideration for his fifth AL Cy Young Award. He might be pitching better than anyone in baseball.

Staked to a 4-0 lead in the opening inning, Clemens won his 10th straight decision and pitched his first shutout of the season, a 7-0 victory over the disheartened Seattle Mariners.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best two best players in baseball, were a combined 0-for-8 against Clemens (15-6). Rodriguez had a 12-game hitting streak ended.

"Roger is the best pitcher I've ever seen," said teammate Jose Cruz Jr., who was Randy Johnson's teammate in Seattle last season. "Randy is super intense, but Roger is even more intense. Imagine that?"

Said Toronto manager Tim Johnson: "Roger knows what he's got to do. "That's why he's a Hall of Famer."

Well, he's not in Cooperstown yet. He's got to retire first and, at even at 36, he's still the dominating right-hander he was for all those years at Fenway Park.

After Cruz's two-run homer and Carlos Delgado's two-run single in the first, the game was over and the Mariners knew it.

"You fall behind like that and it's tough to come back against a great pitcher like Clemens," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said.

Griffey, falling out of the home run race, failed to homer in his fifth straight game, going 0-for-4.

Around the horn

Juan Gonzalez became the Rangers' career hit leader when he connected for his 35th home run in an 8-2 victory over the Indians. It was Gonzalez's 1,181st career hit, pushing him past Jim Sundberg for the most in Rangers' history. With the homer, Gonzalez tied Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs for the major league RBIs lead at 121. . . . Tony Saunders gave up only four hits in seven innings and Bobby Smith snapped an eighth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly as the Devils Rays blunted the Orioles' second-half surge, 4-2. . . . The Orioles didn't lost ground in the wild card race because the Red Sox lost to the Royals, 8-2. Terry Pendleton hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs to help Kansas City snap a five-game losing streak. . . . Gary DiSarcina drove in three runs and rookie Troy Glaus broke out of a slump with a career-high three hits to lead the Angels over the Tigers, 13-2. Glaus had hit in his first six games since being recalled from Triple-a Vancouver on July 31, but his average had since dropped to .197. . . . Kenny Rogers pitched seven strong innings for his 100th career victory and Miguel Tejada backed him with a two-run homer as the Athletics beat the White Sox, 3-1.

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