For the first time all season, the New York Yankees look like they know how to pitch.
Much-maligned Kevin Brown threw seven solid innings and Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada homered in the Yankees’ 6-0 victory over Oakland on Sunday. Mike Mussina pitched a four-hitter in a 5-0 win on Saturday.
The efforts were unexpected and lowered the Yankees’ team ERA to 4.77, good enough for just 24th in the majors.
But since owner George Steinbrenner’s critical comments about pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre were published Friday, Yankees starters have allowed just three runs, with New York pitching consecutive shutouts for the first time since Sept. 14 and 15 at Kansas City.
“Well, we’ve improved dramatically the last few days. There you have it,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said.
Johnson will next be asked to pitch the Yankees to their first three-game winning streak of the season. The hard-throwing left-hander was forced to sit out Wednesday’s start against Tampa Bay with a stiff groin. Though Johnson insisted he wasn’t hurt and could pitch, manager Joe Torre wasn’t taking any chances so he sat down his 41-year-old five-time Cy Young Award winner.
Adding to Johnson motivation for this start is the fact that he developed into one of baseball’s premier power pitchers while playing for the Mariners from 1989-98. In that time, Johnson went 130-74 with a 3.42 ERA in 274 appearances, including 266 starts.
The Yankees, who on Sunday won their 900th game under manager Joe Torre, took two of three from Oakland, their first series win since a two-game sweep at Toronto on April 20-21 and their first at home since the opening series against Boston.
Richie Sexson hit a wind-blown grand slam as the Mariners ended a seven-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over Boston in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Fenway Park.
Ichiro Suzuki reached base three times, stole two bases and scored two runs for the Mariners. Suzuki, the single-season all-time hits leader, has never faced Johnson.