- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 31, 2004

NEW YORK — Kevin Brown gave the Yankees a big boost by pitching into the seventh inning in his first start in more than seven weeks, and Alex Rodriguez homered and drove in two runs in New York’s 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles last night.

“It was great to be back on the mound,” said Brown (8-1), activated from the disabled list before the game after being sidelined since June10 with a lower back spasm and an intestinal parasite.

“When you go out there, you realize how much you miss it,” he said. “Sitting around and waiting was tough.”

On the night before baseball’s trade deadline — with speculation swirling about whether the Yankees will be able to strike a deal with Arizona for Randy Johnson — Brown gave New York an impressive outing.

Brown allowed one run and four hits in 61/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two, throwing 88 pitches.

Tom Gordon struck out the side in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera got three outs for his major league-leading 36th save. Rivera, who blew his previous two chances, has 319 saves, moving him past Rick Aguilera for 10th on the career list — one behind Roberto Hernandez.

The Yankees gave the Orioles four outs in the seventh when Brown struck out B.J. Surhoff for what appeared to be the second out, but Surhoff reached when the ball bounced away from catcher Jorge Posada for a wild pitch.

Brown left to a standing ovation from the crowd of 51,551 at Yankee Stadium. Paul Quantrill came in and gave up a single to Jerry Hairston before getting the last two outs of the inning.

“For someone who missed two months in the season, he gave us everything we needed,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Brown. “He got loose quickly, and that was a good sign.”

Brown said he lost 15 pounds before being treated for his parasite, and said he’s still not 100 percent. Even so, he was happy with his first outing back with the team.

“I’m very pleased to be where I’m at compared to where I was at this time last week because I was still struggling then,” he said. “I know there’s still room for improvement.”

Rodriguez gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Kenny Lofton, Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield each hit one-out singles to load the bases. On a 3-2 pitch, Rodriguez missed a grand slam, hooking a pitch from Daniel Cabrera (8-5) a few feet outside the left-field foul pole. Rodriguez lined the next pitch into left field. Surhoff made a nice catch, and Lofton scored easily.

Surhoff gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the third with his fourth homer, stroking an 0-1 pitch from Brown into the right-field seats to lead off the inning.

Baltimore got two more hits and a walk in the inning, but couldn’t score.

Hairston followed Surhoff’s homer with a single, and two outs later, David Newhan singled and Melvin Mora walked to load the bases. Then, with the crowd standing and cheering him on, Brown struck out Miguel Tejada, who came in leading the majors with 94 RBI.

The Yankees tied it in the fourth on Rodriguez’s leadoff homer, his 26th, that landed in the netting above the walkway leading to Monument Park in left-center field.

Cabrera pitched well coming off his worst big league start Sunday, when he allowed eight runs and 11 hits in an 8-4 loss against Minnesota. The rookie right-hander allowed two runs and seven hits in 61/3 innings.

Notes — To make room for Brown, the Yankees optioned right-hander Bret Prinz to Class AAA Columbus. … Rodriguez is 0-for-8 with the bases loaded, but has driven in three runs on sacrifice flies. … Hairston made a nice diving catch in the sixth on Ruben Sierra’s liner to right, and threw to first to double up Hideki Matsui.

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