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It’s Matsui mania again as Yankees blast Rays

Hideki, Posada rock the Tokyo Dome with HRs

SHARE It’s Matsui mania again as Yankees blast Rays
The Yankees' Hideki Matsui hoists the spoils of winning second-game MVP honors \\\\— a samurai helmet.

The Yankees’ Hideki Matsui hoists the spoils of winning second-game MVP honors \\\\— a samurai helmet.

Junji Kurokawa, Associated Press

TOKYO — Hideki Matsui and the New York Yankees came through for their fans.

Matsui rocked the Tokyo Dome with a two-run homer, Jorge Posada hit three-run shots from both sides of the plate and the Yankees calmed their jittery supporters back home by routing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 12-1 Wednesday night.

"It was truly a happy moment for myself," Matsui said, allowing himself a rare moment of public emotion.

A day after Tampa Bay turned baseball upside down by winning the season opener 8-3, the Yankees restored the old order — appropriate for a country tied to tradition — in another game that started just after 5 a.m. in New York.

Kevin Brown recorded his 198th career victory in his first start for the Yankees, allowing six hits over seven innings, and Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera finished with hitless relief.

Tony Clark, playing first base because of Jason Giambi's ailing knee, hit a tiebreaking two-run homer for the Yankees, who made sure they didn't return from Japan in last place.

Owner George Steinbrenner took the first loss calmly, saying, "It's not where you start, it's where you finish," but an 0-2 trip might have led to a different tune.

"It wouldn't be fun. In fact, I made a comment when we were down 1-0 in the first," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I felt a little tenseness in there. I said, 'Guys, what's the worst thing that can happen? We lose 162 games, big deal. We can still eat, and you're still going to get paid."'

Alex Rodriguez came a few feet short of a grand slam but had another quiet night, going 0-for-5 and dropping to 1-for-9 with no RBIs. Derek Jeter finally got his first hit, an RBI single, after going hitless in his first seven at-bats.

"I was in there saying, 'I'm the last one without a hit,' " Jeter remembered.

Tampa Bay, coming off six straight last-place finishes, was pretty much overlooked during its five days in Japan. Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella understood that.

"We came to play a team that was very popular here," he said. "If we can play .500 against New York all year, I'll be very, very pleased."

The night — if not the whole week — belonged to Matsui, Japan's biggest sports star.

After starring for 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants, he signed with the Yankees before the 2003 season. In his first game back, he homered against his old team in Sunday's exhibition game.

That didn't count. This one did.

He repeatedly was greeted by flashbulb-popping fans thrilled to see him in the flesh, and he rewarded them with two big hits. After Aubrey Huff's RBI single in the first put the Devil Rays ahead, Matsui tied it in the fourth with a run-scoring single off loser Jeremi Gonzalez.

Clark's homer in the fourth put New York ahead 3-1. In the fifth, Matsui teed off on a belt-high pitch, sending it deep into the seats in right-center. Fans gave him a standing ovation, a rarity in Japan. Some of the spectators repeatedly bowed to him.

The ovation was prolonged, as if fans were trying to get him to come out for a curtain call. But Matsui, always modest, didn't leave the dugout.

He had another chance to come up big in the seventh when he batted with the bases loaded, but Matsui struck out against Trever Miller.

After he was presented with the series MVP award, a red-and-gold armored samurai helmet called a Kabuto, he addressed the crowd from a podium near home plate. The videoboard showed his father.

"Hopefully, we can have many more games like this," he said. "Everybody really enjoyed this, and the fans were great."

The crowd in the Big Egg was much quieter than the previous night. And while some Yankees' fans might have been furious over the opener, players were calm.

Brown, the 39-year-old right-hander acquired from Los Angeles in December, struck out five and walked none. His turning point came in the fourth, when he gave up a leadoff single to Jose Cruz Jr. and went to a 3-0 count on Tino Martinez. Brown came back to strike out Martinez as Cruz was caught trying to steal second.

Posada homered right-handed off Damian Moss in the fifth and left-handed against Jorge Sosa in the seventh. It was the fifth time he homered from both sides in the same game, the first since June 28, 2002, against the New York Mets.

His drives were an afterthought as players dressed for the 7,250-mile flight back to spring training in Florida.

"Now," Posada said, "we can talk on the plane."