CLEVELAND (AP) – Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi homered off Bob Wickman in the ninth inning, and the New York Yankees avoided being swept in Cleveland for the first time since 1970 with a 4-3 win over the Indians on Thursday night.

The homers saved the Yankees from dropping further back in the AL East and wild-card standings.

The comeback also might have staved off a tongue-lashing from owner George Steinbrenner, who is running out of patience with his high-priced but so far underachieving collection of All-Star millionaires.

“I’m concerned that they’ve got to get their bats going. They’ve got to get it together and get playing,” Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla., after watching right-hander Jaret Wright in a minor league rehabilitation start.

New York waited until the ninth inning before rallying to beat the Indians, who were two outs from their first home sweep against the Yankees since Richard Nixon was in the White House.

Giambi also homered in the fifth for New York, which stayed 41/2 games behind division-leading Boston.

Rodriguez, who struck out in his first two at-bats and grounded into an inning-ending double play, tied it 3-3 with his 30th homer – a long shot into the left-field bleachers off Wickman (0-3).

One out later, Wickman, who was pitching in his fourth straight game, gave up Giambi’s shot, which barely cleared the glove of leaping right fielder Casey Blake.

As Giambi’s homer cleared the wall, thousands of Yankees fans, who had been taunted by chanting Cleveland fans moments earlier, broke into the familiar sounds of “Let’s Go Yankees!”

Giambi, who hit 14 homers in July, has five multihomer games this season – all since July 4.

Tom Gordon (5-4), who allowed the Indians to take a 3-2 lead in the seventh on Travis Hafner’s RBI single, got the win.

Mariano Rivera worked a perfect ninth for his 27th save. Baseball’s most consistent closer hasn’t blown a save since April 6 against Boston.

Wickman wrecked another nice outing by Indians starter Kevin Millwood, who limited the Yankees to two homers and eight hits in eight innings. The right-hander, who has had to scrap for everything he’s gotten this season because of a lack of support, walked none and struck out eight.

Leading 2-1, Shawn Chacon, acquired last week in a trade from Colorado to bolster New York’s injury-depleted rotation, walked Blake to open the seventh and was lifted for left-hander Alan Embree.

Grady Sizemore walked and Coco Crisp bunted the runners over. Gordon came in and Jhonny Peralta grounded his first pitch to shortstop, scoring Blake to tie it 2-2. Hafner, activated before the game after missing 17 with a concussion, followed with a grounder to the right of first baseman Giambi, who barely moved as the ball went past him and Sizemore scored.

Giambi’s 20th homer – and 15th since July 1 – made it 2-0 in the fifth.

The Indians trimmed it to 2-1 in the bottom half on Peralta’s two-out double.

John Flaherty’s homer in the third, his first since Sept. 23, put New York up 1-0.

Notes: During the bottom of the sixth, New York’s Randy Johnson, armed with a dustpan and broom, assisted one of the bat boys in sweeping the dugout floor. … In the press box, Hall of Famer Bob Feller browsed through this week’s profile about him in “Sports Illustrated.” … Newly acquired Cavaliers Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall threw out ceremonial first pitches. Hughes fired up an air ball, tossing his high over fill-in, 6-foot-7 catcher C.C. Sabathia’s head.

AP-ES-08-04-05 2220EDT

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