Unless pitchers like Al Leiter can stabilize New York’s starting rotation, the Yankees will have to keep relying heavily on their lineup to stay in the playoff race.
Leiter makes his fourth start for the Yankees when they travel to Jacobs Field to face the Cleveland Indians in the opener of a three-game set.
The Yankees’ powerful offense bailed them out again Sunday, as New York rallied from a four-run deficit for the second straight day to defeat the Los Angeles Angels 8-7 in 11 innings. Jason Giambi hit two home runs to reach 300 for his career, and Tony Womack had the winning hit with a single through a drawn-in infield in the 11th.
“I think it definitely builds confidence on our team, especially doing it against one of the best bullpens in the game,” third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. “You have to really battle those guys.”
New York became the first major league team in 30 years to win consecutive games when trailing by at least four runs in the eighth inning or later.
Another rally was necessary Sunday because the Yankees’ tattered rotation again failed to deliver a strong pitching performance. This time, Randy Johnson couldn’t come through, allowing six runs in 7 1-3 innings and leaving with a 6-2 deficit.
Having used 13 starting pitchers this season due to injury and ineffectiveness, including 10 in July, manager Joe Torre knows that to make the postseason his team needs consistency from its rotation.
That’s what the Yankees hoped Leiter would help provide when he was acquired last month from Florida, but his first three outings haven’t offered a definitive answer.
The 39-year-old left-hander was brilliant in beating Boston 5-3 at Fenway Park on July 17, but struggled in a 6-3 loss to Anaheim on July 22. He allowed only one run in five innings against Minnesota on Wednesday, but labored and threw 115 pitches in the 7-3 defeat.
The Yankees didn’t make any major deals before Sunday’s trade deadline, although they were talking to the Indians about acquiring starter Kevin Millwood. Cleveland kept the right-hander, and he’s scheduled to start Wednesday in the finale of this series.
The Indians, who dropped three of four in a July 7-10 visit to Yankee Stadium, took three of four from Seattle last weekend and are still contenders in the wild-card race.
Jhonny Peralta hit a three-run double and finished with a career-high four RBIs as the Indians held off the Mariners for a 9-7 victory Sunday. Peralta, who took over at shortstop for Omar Vizquel this year, is hitting .298 with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs.
“Jhonny has been a very solid player for us,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s someone who has stepped up in the middle of our lineup and continues to get better defensively and continues to get a better feel for the league. With each day you can see him grow as a major leaguer.”
This will be the final series of the season between New York and Cleveland.