Yankees avoid sweep

White Sox absorb 7-5 setback in series finale

? The White Sox had scored two quick runs in the first inning, and another blowout in the Bronx seemed possible.

Then the Yankees beat up on rookie Neal Cotts for five runs in the bottom half, and Mike Mussina finally quieted those Chicago bats.

“After what happened the last two nights, it was a big deal to win this game,” Mussina said after pitching the Yankees past the White Sox, 7-5, Thursday to prevent a three-game Chicago sweep.

New York, pummeled by a combined 24-4 in the first two games, headed to Boston for a weekend series with a 41/2-game lead in the AL East. The second-place Red Sox have cut three games off their deficit in the past week.

In the Yankees’ clubhouse after the game, there seemed to be multiple exhales of relief.

“It was big,” Jason Giambi said. “Chicago’s been red hot playing against us.”

The White Sox roughed up Roger Clemens and David Wells the previous two nights but couldn’t do the same to Mussina (15-7), who won for the fifth time in six decisions.

“They put three pretty good starters out there against us, and we did well. That’s a good sign,” White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. “We’re still fighting and playing good baseball, and I feel good about that.”

With 30 games left in the regular season, the Yankees still are trying to find themselves. New York brought Jeff Weaver back from the minor leagues after the game, and he might take Wells’ spot in the rotation next week.

New York's Mike Mussina delivers against Chicago. Mussina won for the fifth time in six decisions as the Yankees defeated the White Sox, 7-5, Thursday in New York.

While the White Sox traveled to Detroit, trying to avoid losing 100 games before September, New York headed to Fenway Park, site of Raul Mondesi’s temper tantrum last month. The Yankees are an evolving team — seven of the current 25 players weren’t in the organization when the season began.

“You’ve got too many new players, that’s the problem,” Giambi said. “We kind of keep turning over the team. Everybody’s trying to find their role in the bullpen, Booney (Aaron Boone) is still getting comfortable. I think our best ball is yet to come.”

Twins 6, Angels 1

Anaheim, Calif. — Jacque Jones hit a two-run homer, leading Kyle Lohse and Minnesota past Anaheim. Matthew LeCroy and Luis Rivas also drove in two runs apiece for the Twins.

Lohse (11-10) won for the fifth time in six starts, allowing a run, five hits and five walks in 62/3 innings. He struck out three and stranded four runners in scoring position.

The right-hander finished 5-1 with a 3.83 ERA in August after going 0-3 with an 11.51 ERA in five starts during July.

LaTroy Hawkins worked a scoreless eighth and Eddie Guardado pitched a hitless ninth.

Ramon Ortiz (15-11) allowed five runs — three earned — and six hits in seven-plus innings. He must win five of a projected six remaining starts to become the Angels’ first 20-game winner since 1974, when Nolan Ryan won 22.

Indians 8, Tigers 3

Cleveland — Rookie Jody Gerut homered twice and drove in a career-high five runs, powering Cleveland past Detroit. The Tigers lost for the 99th time and must sweep a three-game weekend series at home against the Chicago White Sox to avoid losing 100 games before September.

Josh Bard drove in two runs for Cleveland with three hits, including his fourth homer.

Gerut hit the first pitch he saw from Jeremy Bonderman (6-18) for his 17th homer to put the Indians ahead 2-0 in the first inning.

Athletics 6, Orioles 4

Oakland, Calif. — Adam Melhuse hit a three-run homer and John Halama pitched into the seventh inning as Oakland won its sixth straight, sweeping Baltimore. Scott Hatteberg led off Oakland’s four-run first inning with a homer. Mark Ellis later added an RBI triple as the A’s cruised to their 10th win in 12 games — and their sixth straight victory over Baltimore this season.

Oakland retained sole possession of first place in the AL West behind Halama (3-4), who won for the first time since May 8.

The A’s former fifth starter was banished to the bullpen three months ago, but he was solid in his second spot start in place of 15-game winner Mark Mulder, who’s probably out for the season because of a broken leg bone near his hip.

After a rocky first inning, Halama held the Orioles to six hits and two runs while surviving through 62/3 innings.

Devil Rays 3, Mariners 2

Seattle — Toby Hall homered in the ninth inning, sending Tampa Bay past Seattle. The Mariners fell two games behind Oakland in the AL West after leading the division for 41/2 months. They lost for the eighth time in nine games, leaving them a half-game back of Boston in the wild-card chase.

Seattle’s Bret Boone tied it at 2 with a solo shot in the eighth, but Hall drove a 1-1 pitch from Shigetoshi Hasegawa (1-1) into the Devil Rays’ bullpen in left field with two outs.

It was only the fifth time Hasegawa has allowed a run in 53 appearances this season. Al Martin also homered for the Devil Rays.