Contreras at His Best; Yanks Hit 5 Homers

Friday, July 16th 2004, 6:05 am
By: News On 6

Jose Contreras strode to the mound for the ninth inning, something he had never done as a major league pitcher.

And even though he allowed a leadoff single to end his outing, the former Cuban star felt he never pitched better.

Contreras allowed four hits and struck out seven, and Alex Rodriguez hit two of the New York Yankees' five home runs _ their only hits _ in a 5-1 victory in Detroit on Thursday night.

``Against the White Sox, I pitched a pretty good game, but it wasn't as good as this one,'' Contreras said through a translator. ``As far as the major leagues go, those are the two best games I can think of.

``Prior to coming here, with the Cuban national team in 2001, I threw 11 innings against Japan. That was pretty good, but that was amateur, it doesn't compare.''

Contreras (7-3) has been wildly inconsistent since signing with New York before the 2003 season after defecting from Cuba. He has won seven of eight decisions but has a 5.17 ERA this season. His previous longest outing with the Yankees was last Sept. 23 at Chicago, when the Yankees clinched the AL East.

After Dmitri Young had a leadoff triple in the fourth, Contreras retired 15 straight until he allowed Bobby Higginson's single to start the ninth.

``Contreras was great _ the best I've seen,'' Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. ``He had command of everything. We're a pretty good hitting team, but he was awfully good.''

In other AL games, it was: Baltimore 5, Tampa Bay 4; Kansas City 3, Minnesota 1; Seattle 2, Cleveland 1; Anaheim 8, Boston 1; and Oakland 4, Chicago White Sox 2.

Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Kenny Lofton all hit homers against Jeremy Bonderman (6-7) _ his only hits allowed _ and Rodriguez added another home run, his 24th, off Wilfredo Ledezma in the ninth.

``I've never seen that before,'' Rodriguez said.

That's because A-Rod was in high school when a team last had at least five hits in a game _ all homers. The Cleveland Indians hit six homers in a 7-3 win at Texas on June 24, 1989, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Yankees, with a major league-best 56 wins, lead baseball with 137 homers.

``That's a dimension we didn't have before,'' Torre said. ``We've always had to string a couple hits together to get something going.''

Orioles 5, Devil Rays 4

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Baltimore's David Newhan hit a tiebreaking, two-run triple in the seventh inning.

Larry Bigbie homered for the Orioles and Daniel Cabrera (7-3) gave up three runs and five hits in six innings to beat Travis Harper (2-1).

The Devil Rays had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth, but Jorge Julio got Julio Lugo to fly out to right for his 13th save.

Royals 3, Twins 1

At Kansas City, Mo., Mike Sweeney's RBI single in the first ended the Royals' 31-inning scoreless drought against the Twins.

Kansas City had not scored off Minnesota since May 30. The Twins, who now have lost four straight, outscored the Royals 25-0 in a three-game sweep last week.

Kyle Lohse (3-7), one of the shutout pitchers, was the loser Thursday.

Greinke (2-6) gave up a run and four hits in seven innings.

Mariners 2, Indians 1

At Seattle, Justin Leone hit his first major league homer _ a two-run shot _ to back Joel Pineiro (5-10) and help Seattle end a nine-game losing.

Leone connected off Jake Westbrook (6-5) in the seventh.

Athletics 4, White Sox 2

Oakland, Calif., Rich Harden (4-5) allowed four hits in eight innings, and Eric Chavez had a home run and Bobby Crosby an RBI double against Jon Garland (7-6).

Magglio Ordonez hit a two-run homer for the White Sox, whose four-game winning streak ended.

Angels 8, Red Sox 1

At Anaheim, Calif., Darin Erstad homered and drove in three runs, and Chone Figgins also had three RBIs for Anaheim.

Jarrod Washburn (10-4) allowed three hits in seven innings, leading the Angels to their fourth straight win.

Pitching a week after earning his first career shutout, the left-hander struck out three and walked two while beating Derek Lowe (7-9).