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YANKEES SHOW TRIBE WHO'S BOSS AGAIN BEHIND O'NEILL, CLEMENS

The Jacobs Field clubhouse doors were closed for a 20-minute meeting before batting practice Friday, but it didn't seem to help the Cleveland Indians at all.

Paul O'Neill and Roger Clemens made sure of that.

O'Neill drove in six runs and Clemens allowed just three hits over seven innings as the New York Yankees waltzed past the Tribe for the second straight night, 9-4.

A mostly silent crowd of 43,029 saw the Yankees win their fourth in a row while the Indians dropped their fourth straight. Cleveland looked lifeless, much as it did in Thursday's 9-5 loss that opened this four-game series. Both teams have 89-58 records, tied for the best in the American League.

"It's definitely fun to have a night like that," said O'Neill, who had his biggest game since collecting eight RBIs against California on Aug. 31, 1995. "We've been scoring some runs early here and that allows our pitching to settle in."

O'Neill quickly ruined Cleveland starter Jaret Wright's evening with a two-run double in the first inning and a booming three-run homer in the second.

That was plenty for Clemens (13-9), who snapped his first three-start losing streak since 1993. Clemens was hardly dominant (six strikeouts, four walks) but he was better than he's been for most of the last two months. He's just 4-5 since July 20 and his season ERA of 4.65 is nearly two runs per game over last year.

"It's such a tough thing for him because I know how tough he works between starts and how organized he is," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "He would feel much worse if we weren't where we are in the standings. He could have a lot more baggage."

"You have to give credit to our hitters," Clemens said. "When you get a crooked number up there quick (on the scoreboard), it's a lot easier."

Seeing the Tribe was just what Clemens needed. He's 24-7 with a 2.98 ERA against Cleveland in his career. The Yankees, meanwhile, improved to 20-8 in regular season games at Jacobs Field and are 6-2 overall against the Indians this season.

Hargrove tried to reverse all that negative karma with his pregame chat, but it didn't work. Hargrove insisted the meeting wasn't a punitive reaction to Thursday's four-error slopfest, but few people believed him.

"I'm really surprised about the mentality around here," he said. "Why do these guys need a butt chewing when they've won 89 games? When most teams have gone through what we have (losing 16 players to the disabled list), they would have lost 89."

Too many of the Indians' losses, however, have come against the American League's fellow heavyweights. They are 9-21 against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers.

Another gnawing question is what -- if anything -- can be done with Wright (7-9). Cleveland's 1997 postseason hero just about assured he won't be in the Tribe's rotation this October with a horrible outing that saw him allow seven runs and walk seven in just 3 2/3 innings.

Wright further embarrassed himself by waving his hat to the hooting crowd and shaking his head as he walked to the dugout after being pulled following Tino Martinez's two-run single in the fourth. That really brought the boos upon him.

"You always want to keep your mental side in check and that (the cap wave) was a mental mistake by me," Wright said.

It took Wright 29 pitches to record his first out of the game. He needed 45 pitches just to get out of the first, which ended with the Yankees holding a 2-0 lead, courtesy of O'Neill's double that was butchered by Wil Cordero in left.

Things really turned disastrous in the second when Wright yielded a one-out single to Chuck Knoblauch, a walk to Derek Jeter and O'Neill's 449-foot bolt into the right-field bleachers.

"It's not his velocity," O'Neill said. " As soon as he finds his control, he can be all right like he was before."

Wright is 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA in his two starts after being activated off the disabled list Sept. 10. He hasn't won since July 6, six starts ago, and his ERA for the season is 6.34.

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