Rocket Launches Yanks Ever Closer

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Roger Clemens apparently spent his extended offseason transforming into Harry Houdini, because the Rocket continues to magically escape trouble time after time. Clemens labored last night, allowing a season-high nine hits and throwing 99 pitches through just six innings, but surrendered only one run in a [6-1 Yankee victory]. Alex Rodriguez doubled home the winning run during a four-run seventh, Andy Phillips provided a big hit for the third game in four nights and the Yankees bullpen nearly imploded again for the second consecutive evening.

Down 1-0 in the seventh, A-Rod hit a double to the left-centerfield gap that drove in Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu to give New York the lead. The Yankees then loaded the bases for Andy Phillips, who delivered a two-run single to make it 4-1. During the past week, Phillips has made a strong case that he should be the everyday first baseman and that the Yankees don’t need to trade for someone to fill that hole at the [July 31 deadline].

But the Yankees bullpen, [as always], made it interesting in the late innings. Manager Joe Torre—without his most reliable reliever, Luis Vizcaíno, available—used Scott Proctor, who walked two men, Brian Bruney, who walked one man, and Ron Villone, who walked one man, before finally bringing in Rivera, who set down all five batters he faced. The win [inched the Yankees]( closer to the AL East and Wild Card leads, as they now sit just seven games behind the Red Sox in the division and six behind the Indians in the WC.

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