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Yankees 7, Devil Rays 6

Yankees hope rally will provide spark

Melky Cabrera couldn't catch Akinori Iwamura's liner on the fly in the ninth inning, but the Yankees escaped with the win. Melky Cabrera couldn't catch Akinori Iwamura's liner on the fly in the ninth inning, but the Yankees escaped with the win. (DOUG BENC/GETTY IMAGES)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez concedes the New York Yankees have a lot of work ahead.

Still, winning three of four games against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to climb above .500 for the first time in more than three weeks is a nice start for a team that spent the first half of the season digging itself into a deep hole.

"It's huge," Rodriguez said after yesterday's 7-6 victory. "We have to feel like we want to win series -- two out of three, three out of four. Anything else is not what we're looking for."

Derek Jeter hit a two-run homer, Andy Phillips snapped an eighth-inning tie with an RBI single, and New York (45-44) moved above .500 for the first time since June 22. The second-place Yankees cut the Red Sox' lead to nine games in the AL East, the first time they've been within single digits since June 19.

"This was a hugely important game for us," manager Joe Torre said. "We just kept hanging in there and grinding."

Phillips went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and made a diving catch at first base with a runner on second in the eighth, starting an inning-ending double play that preserved a one-run lead. Mariano Rivera wriggled out of a two-on, none-out jam in the ninth for his 426th career save.

Jeter homered off starter Edwin Jackson to finish a four-run fifth inning that erased a 3-0 deficit. Phillips had an RBI triple in the fifth and put the Yankees ahead for good with his eighth-inning single off Gary Glover.

"To be able to contribute on both sides of the ball, as a player you certainly relish it," Phillips said. "We could have easily let that game get away from us. It's not a situation you want, but we got back in there and you could feel the energy."

For the second straight game, the Yankees rallied to win after falling behind, 3-0. They put together a three-run eighth after Carlos Pena's two-run homer off Ron Villone gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 lead in the seventh.

Robinson Cano made it 5-5 in the eighth with a sacrifice fly off Casey Fossum (5-8), and Jeter put the Yankees up, 7-5, with an RBI infield single later in the inning.

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