Gary Sheffield is playing like an MVP.
Though Boston’s Manny Ramirez has slightly better numbers and Vladimir Guerrero has had an excellent first season in Anaheim, few can argue with what Sheffield means to the AL East-leading Yankees. Sheffield leads New York in virtually every major statistical category, including a .301 batting average and 111 RBIs.
The 35-year-old right fielder, who has been an All-Star with five different teams—and eight times total during his 17-year career—also has a penchant for hitting clutch home runs, as he did Sunday in the Yankees’ 9-7 win over Baltimore.
“Sheff, in a situation where everybody goes up there thinking they want to hit a home run, seems to manage to do it,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He seems to have a knack of composing himself and just having to focus like nobody else does.”
Sheffield led off the ninth inning with a solo shot off of Orioles closer Jorge Julio, his 34th homer of the season and third RBI of the game. Hideki Matsui then followed with a solo shot of his own as the Yankees won 9-7, their seventh win in their last eight games.
“It was an ugly baseball game,” Sheffield said, “but those are the kind of games you want to win because it lifts your ballclub and it takes the wind out of the other club.”
Sheffield is hitting .355 (11-for-31) with 10 RBIs over his last eight games for the Yankees, whose lead over second-place Boston is back up to 3 1/2 games following the Red Sox’s 2-0 loss in Seattle on Sunday.
The AL-worst Royals are coming off their sixth loss in 11 games this month, 7-2 to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Brian Anderson will take the mound for Kansas City in the opener against New York. He said although his team has struggled all season, a series with the Yankees presents the Royals with an opportunity to show the league they’re better than their record.
“It would help a lot, but we can’t get too wrapped up in the awe of the Yankees and we need just to go out and play hard and do what we do well,” said Anderson, who is 2-6 with an 8.44 ERA in his career against New York. “But, certainly, I think guys are going to come to the park with an extra bounce in their step.”