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El Duque Makes Yankee Debut Look Easy

<i> From Associated Press</i>

“El Duque” was dazzling.

Orlando Hernandez, who risked his life in defecting from Cuba on a flimsy boat, made an impressive major league debut, pitching the Yankees past the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 7-1, Wednesday night at New York.

Cheered on by a chanting crowd of 27,291 waving Cuban flags, Hernandez limited the Devil Rays to one run and five hits in seven innings. “The Duke,” the half-brother of World Series MVP Livan Hernandez of the Florida Marlins, struck out seven.

Wearing his navy socks nearly up to his knees and pulling his cap far down on his face, Hernandez showed off a neat assortment of fastballs, slow curves and sidearm deliveries. He left to a standing ovation and hearty congratulations from his teammates.

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“Compared to the pressure of jumping on a [boat] and coming to the United States, this is a piece of cake,” Yankee Manager Joe Torre said.

Scott Brosius supported Hernandez with a pair of two-run doubles. The Yankees gained their third victory in a row, defeating the expansion Devil Rays in their first-ever meeting.

The Yankees’ victory in the opener of the two-game set assured New York of its 21st straight series without a loss. The last team to do that was the 1970 Cincinnati Reds, who went 24 in a row.

Tony Saunders (1-6) fell to 0-5 in nine starts since April 16.

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Fred McGriff accounted for Tampa Bay’s run with a home run in the fourth. That ended the longest homerless drought of his career at 111 at-bats.

Other than McGriff, the Devil Rays did little against Hernandez. He struck out Quinton McCracken to begin the game and retired the first five batters.

Hernandez was 6-0 at triple-A Columbus, yet got a chance to move up to the majors only because scheduled starter David Cone was bitten on the right index finger by his mother’s dog.

The Yankees had not intended to promote Hernandez, who is listed at 28 years old, until the All-Star break or so. And before the game, Yankee Manager Joe Torre said Hernandez would return to Columbus after his start.

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However, Hernandez’s performance may make the decision a bit more difficult for the Yankees, whose 40-13 record is the best in the majors.

Hernandez defected from Cuba the day after Christmas and signed a $6.6 million, four-year contract with the Yankees in March.

Baltimore 3, Boston 0--Doug Johns put a quick end to his Fenway Park problems, giving up only four hits in 7 1/3 innings as the Orioles beat the Red Sox for their eighth victory in 11 games.

Johns, 0-3 with a 25.20 ERA in three previous games in Boston, is back at full strength after a stint on the disabled list because of insomnia, has given uponly four earned runs in 24 2/3 innings in his last three starts.

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“I tried not to put too many people on base and I didn’t want to fall behind on the count,” Johns said. “I tried to go right at them. You don’t want to worry about the ballpark.”

He used a variety of off-speed pitches to keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard for the first time this season. “When a guy doesn’t throw the ball hard he has to mix it up,” said Harold Baines, who scored Baltimore’s first run on Roberto Alomar’s fourth-inning sacrifice fly.

Johns (2-1) did not allow a hit until Damon Buford’s leadoff single in the sixth. Mo Vaughn hit a two-out double in the seventh, Buford singled again in the eighth and Lou Merloni followed with a single to chase Johns.

“I faced Johns before and he’s a completely different pitcher now,” Buford said. “He has great location and changes speeds very well.”

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Chicago 10, Kansas City 5--One night after brawling with the Angels, the Royals went down without a fight at Kansas City.

Wil Cordero went four for five with three doubles and Magglio Ordonez had a career-high four RBIs as the White Sox notched their 10th straight victory at Kauffman Stadium.

There were no beanballs or brawls like the ones that marred the Royals’ 7-5 loss to the Angels on Tuesday night.

Robin Ventura had three of Chicago’s 15 hits and Cordero drove in three runs and scored three times, making a winner of Carlos Castillo (2-4) in relief of Jason Bere. Castillo pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

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The Royals, after winning four straight, have lost four of five. Their home record dropped to a major league-worst 8-22.

Minnesota 3, Cleveland 2--Marty Cordova’s two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning rallied the Twins to a victory at Cleveland, as the Indians lost for only the second in nine games.

Cleveland appeared ready to extend their AL Central lead over the Twins to a major league-best 9 1/2 games when David Justice led off the seventh inning with his 11th homer for a 2-1 lead.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Twins didn’t get a runner past first base against Bartolo Colon (4-4) until Otis Nixon walked with one out in the eighth and moved to third on Paul Molitor’s two-out single.

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Paul Assenmacher relieved Colon and walked pinch-hitter Alex Ochoa to load the bases. Jose Mesa came on and allowed Cordova’s single to right on the first pitch.

Texas 16, Oakland 10--Juan Gonzalez and Luis Alicea homered in a six-run fifth inning and the Rangers withstood Rickey Henderson’s grand slam to beat the Athletics at Oakland.

Lee Stevens had four hits and drove in two runs and Will Clark added a three-run double for Texas, which shelled rookie Blake Stein (1-3) for nine runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Domingo Cedeno also drove in three runs with a pair of hits as the teams combined for 32 hits, 19 by Texas.

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Toronto 5, Detroit 1--Roger Clemens pitched a four-hitter for his first complete game of the season as the Blue Jays ended a three-game losing streak by beating the slumping Tigers at Toronto.

Clemens (6-6), who had lost three of his previous four starts, is 124-53 following a loss by his team. He struck out 10 and didn’t allow a walk.

“We needed a big game from the Rocket,” Blue Jay Manager Tim Johnson said. “He was focused tonight and he showed it, he had tremendous stuff.”

It was the first time this season and the 83rd time in his career that Clemens struck out at least 10 batters.

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“When you don’t walk any guys and beat yourself, usually the outcome is good,” Clemens said. “Hopefully we can build on this and play better at home.”

After a 4-1 trip, the Blue Jays are 2-5 since returning home for an 11-game home stand.

Seth Greisinger (0-1) lost in his major league debut, giving up five runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings as the Tigers lost their fourth straight.


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