In 2005, the Pirates are just another team with a better record than the struggling Yankees.
The Yanks look to put the memory of a 3-9 road trip behind them when they face the improved Pirates in the teams’ first meeting since the 1960 World Series.
New York’s longest trip of the season ended in miserable fashion Sunday, as the bullpen allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to score four times in the eighth inning of a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees came into the inning with a 2-1 lead and a chance to close the trip with three wins in four games, but instead suffered another costly defeat and limped back to New York to open a 13-game homestand.
New York’s trip included a three-game sweep by last-place Kansas City and a series loss to Milwaukee. The Yankees failed again Sunday to gain ground in the AL East on first-place Baltimore, which lost its second straight, and remained six games out of the top spot.
Manager Joe Torre summed up the trip as: “Terrible, I guess.”
“We won three games and tried to build on it but we really couldn’t put anything together,” said Torre, whose team saw its lead disappear Sunday on former Yankee Scott Seabol’s two-run pinch-hit homer—the first of his career. “And if we’re expecting to get back into the middle of it and get our confidence back, we need to start stacking some wins.”
New York scored just 20 runs in the nine defeats, and offense could be even harder to come by Tuesday if outfielder Hideki Matsui can’t play. Matsui suffered a right ankle injury in the seventh inning Sunday when he slipped and fell while chasing Jim Edmonds’ double. He had to be assisted from the field by Torre and a team trainer, although he walked without a limp.
“I should be OK,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “They took X-rays and everything was negative so everything should be fine.”
Matsui, who drove in a run in each of the last two games, has played in 387 consecutive contests since joining the Yankees and has a streak of 1,637 games counting his time with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.
The improved Pirates come into the series with a record that’s a half-game better than that of the Yankees, having won four of their last five games. Pittsburgh had a chance to arrive at Yankee Stadium with a five-game winning streak, but lost 7-5 in 13 innings to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The Pirates had erased a three-run deficit before giving up Alex Gonzalez’s two-run homer in the 13th, preventing Pittsburgh from moving over .500 for the first time this late in a season since it was 67-66 on Aug. 26, 1997.
The Pirates left PNC Park disappointed after defeating the Devil Rays 7-2 and 18-2 in the first two games. Pittsburgh, down to its last out in the ninth Sunday, had tied it on Humberto Cota’s pinch-hit homer off Lance Carter.
Still, Pittsburgh hasn’t lost consecutive games since dropping four in a row from May 22-25, and is looking forward to Tuesday’s opener.
“There’s a lot of history in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, and the atmosphere is going to be great,” said Matt Lawton, a former Twins and Indians outfielder. “It’ll be the first time I’ve gone there in 10 years where they (the Yankees) weren’t winning big. I think we’re up for it. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be tough, but we’re playing good baseball right now.”