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ORIOLES HAVE LAST LAUGH AGAINST RIVERA, YANKS

The Baltimore Orioles spoiled an outstanding rally by the New York Yankees with an improbable comeback of their own.

Jerry Hairston singled in two runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Orioles stalled the Yankees' drive to another division crown with a 7-6 victory Friday night.

The loss, combined with Boston's 5-2 win over Detroit, left New York's magic number for clinching a fourth straight AL East title at five.

"It bothers me because we want to win. We want to get that magic number to zero," New York manager Joe Torre said. "But as long as we continue to play like we've been playing, I'm pleased."

After the Yankees took the lead by scoring three runs in the top of the ninth, Baltimore bounced back against Mariano Rivera (4-6), who was vying for his franchise-record 47th save.

"Anytime we get a chance to bring Mo in, it's over for me," Torre said.

Not this time.

Tony Batista and Brady Anderson singled and moved up on a sacrifice before Hairston grounded an opposite-field single off the glove of first baseman Tino Martinez. As the ball squirted away, Batista and Anderson scampered home.

"He has great movement on his fastball," Hairston said. "At the last second, it cut on me. I just tried to get a good swing and hit the ball."

Rivera threw six pitches, all of them in the strike zone, and blew his sixth save of the season.

"He threw strikes and they hit it," Torre said.

Baltimore improved to 3-11 against New York this season, including 1-7 at Camden Yards.

The Yankees trailed, 5-1, before Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer in the seventh. New York then took the lead in the ninth against Willis Roberts (8-9) when Martinez led off with his 34th homer and Scott Brosius added a two-run shot.

Brosius, who recently returned from the disabled list, had not homered since July 26. But it was all for naught.

"A loss is a loss. We know we're capable of coming back and winning games. We've done it before," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "You don't sit around and say, 'We lost but we came back and lost.' You lose, you lose."

Luis Matos homered and Cal Ripken drove in two runs for the Orioles, who have won two straight after losing 16 of 17.

New York has dropped two in a row after winning six straight.

"When they were down, it was like they knew they would come back, and they did," Hairston said. "But we bounced back and showed a lot of character."

New York's ninth-inning rally deprived Rick Bauer of his first victory. Bauer allowed three runs -- two earned -- and four hits in seven innings before leaving with a 5-1 lead.

Yanks starter Mike Mussina, who gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings, had not allowed more than four runs in a game since Aug. 2.

Reed wins biggie for Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rick Reed won consecutive starts for the first time since joining Minnesota, and Torii Hunter hit a three-run homer as the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians, 6-2, to keep alive their slim playoff hopes.

The Twins cut Cleveland's lead in the AL Central to five games. With 14 games left in the regular season, the two teams play five more times.

Reed (4-3) allowed two runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings, helping the Twins improve to just 4-10 against the Indians this year. After allowing Roberto Alomar's solo homer, he was replaced by Hector Carrasco.

Bobby Kielty also homered for the Twins.

Cleveland rookie C.C. Sabathia (15-5), pitching on 11 days' rest, struggled for the second straight time. He gave up six runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings and tied a season-high with five walks.

Around the horn

Manny Ramirez and Doug Mirabelli each hit two-run homers and Casey Fossum earned his first win as a starter, leading the Red Sox over the Tigers, 5-2. Fossum (2-1) allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. . . . Alex Rodriguez hit his career-high 47th homer to tie Ernie Banks' major league record for home runs in a season by a shortstop and the Rangers tripped the Angels, 9-8. . . . Toby Hall hit a three-run homer to lead the Devil Rays over the Blue Jays, 7-4. . . . Tony Graffanino hit an RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to send the White Sox to an 8-7 win over the Royals.

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