The New York Yankees have rediscovered their winning ways—in ugly fashion.
The Yankees hope they left their shoddy defense in Detroit as they begin interleague play with the opener of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
New York committed a season-high four errors Sunday against the Tigers, squandering a six-run lead that denied Roger Clemens his 300th win. The Yankees, however, came away with a 10-9, 17-inning win, helping them avoid a series loss to the worst team in the majors.
The Yankees have won four of five following a season-high five-game losing streak, which capped a stretch in which they dropped 12 of 15.
However, they needed a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth after blowing a four-run lead in the top of the inning to beat Boston in the deciding game of their series on Wednesday. Then on Sunday they got bailed out by five-plus stellar innings of relief from No. 4 starter David Wells and two 17th-inning solo home runs to secure the series win over the woeful Tigers.
They cannot afford to play that way against the Reds, who are second in the NL with 81 home runs and fourth with 279 runs. Cincinnati has three players in the top 10 in the NL in homers—major league leader Adam Dunn with 18, as well as Aaron Boone and Austin Kearns, who each have 13.
The Yankees feature four of the AL’s top 14 homer hitters, including Alfonso Soriano, who leads the league with 17.
“It looks like a launching pad,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said of Great American. “Lots of home runs. Any time you get to see a new stadium, it’s fun.”
Though they are meeting for the first time in the regular season, the Yankees and Reds have a colorful postseason history. New York beat Cincinnati in the 1939 and 1961 World Series. However, the Yankees had no answers for the “Big Red Machine” in the 1976 series, losing in four straight.
“I think we’ve all been looking forward to this series for a while,” said right-hander Danny Graves, who’ll start Thursday’s finale against New York’s Jose Contreras. “Especially the way they’re doing interleague now. We get to play different divisions. Every time you play a different division, you’re excited. It’s more exciting because the first team we’re playing is the Yankees.”
STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Reds - 4th place, 3 1/2 GB, NL Central.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Andy Pettitte (5-5, 4.93 ERA). Pettitte snapped the first four-game losing steak of his career with a solid effort in last Tuesday’s 11-3 win over Boston. The veteran left-hander, who had a 7.64 ERA during his skid, allowed just two runs and five hits over 7 2-3 innings, while striking out six and walking just one. He is making his first career start against Cincinnati.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Jimmy Haynes (0-4, 10.72 ERA). The Reds’ opening day starter, Haynes came off the disabled list last Tuesday and didn’t figure in the decision in the Reds’ 3-2 loss to Atlanta. The right-hander, who was sidelined since mid-April with a bad back, allowed two runs and seven hits over five innings. Haynes is 1-2 with a 7.46 ERA in six career appearances, including five starts, against the Yankees.
2002 INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Yankees - 11-7; Reds - 2-10.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - OF Juan Rivera grounded into three double plays Sunday. The last Yankee to do it was Matt Nokes on May 3, 1992. … SS Jeter hit his third homer of the season Sunday, extending his hitting streak to nine games. Jeter is batting .279 (12-for-43) during the streak. … Against RHP Haynes, INF Todd Zeile is 3-for-18 (.167), 3B Robin Ventura is 3-for-15 (.200) and SS Jeter is 3-for-13 (.231). Reds - CF Ken Griffey Jr. has hit LHP Pettitte well, going 9-for-24 (.375) with a home run. … INF Boone did not start Sunday, but pinch hit in the seventh to extend his consecutive games streak to 218. … Reds batters lead the major leagues with 479 strikeouts and are on pace to threaten the record of 1,399 set by the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 20-8 on the road; Reds - 15-13 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - 1B Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; CF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Reds - INF Ryan Freel (hamstring), 15-day DL; SS Barry Larkin (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Ryan Dempster (neck), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (arm), 60-day DL.