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Matsui keeps Yankees rolling

Orioles are beaten again, this time on walkoff homer

Designated hitter Hideki Matsui is mobbed by Yankees teammates after his game-winning home run against the Orioles. The Yankees have won four straight since the All-Star break. Designated hitter Hideki Matsui is mobbed by Yankees teammates after his game-winning home run against the Orioles. The Yankees have won four straight since the All-Star break. (Jim Mcisaac/Getty Images)
Associated Press / July 21, 2009

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Hideki Matsui rounded third base, headed home and saw teammates gesturing upward with their hands.

“I was just going to step on home plate, just normally,’’ he said, “but they told me to throw my helmet. So I threw my helmet.’’

The usually reserved Japanese star homered off Jim Johnson in the ninth inning last night at Yankee Stadium to beat the Baltimore Orioles and give the streaking New York Yankees 2-1 wins in three straight games for the first time in 18 years.

“I’ve never done it before, so yeah, in that sense, yes, it’s a little uncomfortable,’’ Matsui said through a translator, “but I’d like to follow whatever the team’s rules are.’’

Matsui lined a 2-2 pitch into the right-field seats off Johnson (3-4) for his second game-ending homer in the majors - the other was as a rookie July 17, 2003, against Cleveland’s David Riske. A.J. Burnett got Matsui with a whipped cream pie in front of the Yankees dugout.

New York (55-37), which tied Boston atop the AL East for only the second time since early June, stretched its post All-Star-break winning streak to four and moved 18 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season (94-68). The Yankees got some stellar defense, throwing out runners at the plate on consecutive pitches in the eighth to keep the score tied at 1.

Alfredo Aceves (6-1) escaped a two-on jam in the ninth when Nolan Reimold hit an inning-ending flyout.

Matsui then homered with one out in the ninth, taking two balls and fouling off three pitches before his 15th homer this season. Matsui has struggled at times following left knee surgery last Sept. 22, but he is hitting .349 with five homers and 14 RBIs in his past 43 at-bats.

Athletics 14, Twins 13 - Matt Holliday hit a tying grand slam in the seventh inning and Jack Cust followed with another shot, helping host Oakland rally from a 10-run deficit in a slugfest that featured eight home runs.

Holliday also had a two-run homer in the largest comeback in Oakland history. The franchise’s most famous rally came when the Philadelphia A’s trailed, 8-0, in Game 4 of the 1929 World Series before scoring 10 runs in the seventh to beat the Cubs, 10-8.

The game ended when Michael Cuddyer was thrown out trying to score from second on Michael Wuertz’s wild pitch.

White Sox 4, Rays 3 - Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer to back Gavin Floyd and host Chicago hung on to win. Chicago’s Carlos Quentin singled in four at-bats after missing nearly two months because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Dodgers 7, Reds 5 - Manny Ramírez hit his 537th home run to pass Mickey Mantle into 15th place on the all-time list, Jason Schmidt won his first major league start in more than two years, and host Los Angeles beat Cincinnati.

Phillies 10, Cubs 1 - Raul Ibanez hit a three-run homer, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard each went deep, and host Philadelphia won its ninth straight game.

Rockies 10, Diamondbacks 6 - Jorge De La Rosa (7-7) pitched seven strong innings in his fifth straight win and drove in two runs, Dexter Fowler and Chris Iannetta homered, and host Colorado moved into the NL wild card lead, one-half game ahead of the Giants.

Mets 6, Nationals 2 - Livan Hernandez threw seven solid innings and Jeff Francoeur hit his first homer with New York to help lift the visiting Mets.

Astros 3, Cardinals 2 - Carlos Lee’s three-run homer lifted host Houston to victory in the first game of a three-game series between the NL Central foes.

Braves 11 Giants 3 - Tommy Hanson struck out 11 to remain unbeaten, Chipper Jones hit a two-run homer, and host Atlanta beat San Francisco in Jonathan Sanchez’s first start since his no-hitter. Sanchez struck out eight over six solid innings in his first game since his gem against San Diego July 10. He gave up three runs and four hits.

Pirates 8, Brewers 5 - Delwyn Young and Garrett Jones homered to help host Pittsburgh end a 17-game skid against Milwaukee.

Marlins 3, Padres 2 - Rick VandenHurk pitched six strong innings to earn his first win in more than a year to lead visiting Florida.

Last night’s game between the Angels and Royals in Kansas City, Mo., was postponed by rain. It will be made up as part of a doubleheader today.

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