Al Leiter has been reborn in pinstripes.
Leiter, cast off by the Florida Marlins in mid-July, has emerged as an important part of New York’s injury-plagued starting rotation. The 39-year-old left-hander is 3-0 over his last five starts, yielding three earned runs or fewer in each of those outings.
On Sunday, Leiter allowed one run and two hits over six innings, striking out six and walking four, in a 10-3 victory over Kansas City. After going 3-7 with a 6.64 ERA in 17 appearances for the Marlins, Leiter is just happy to have the chance to contribute to the Yankees’ playoff drive.
“I look at this as a second life,” he said. “Every game feels like an event. Every pitch matters. I need that. It elevates your aggressiveness.”
Leiter will try to pick the Yankees up after Thursday’s 5-1 loss in Seattle. The Yankees split a four-game set with the Mariners, and are now deadlocked with AL West co-leaders Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL wild-card race with Cleveland just one game back.
The Yankees also dropped 3 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
Making matters worse, New York starter Jaret Wright, who missed four months earlier this season with a shoulder injury, was forced to leave the game in the sixth inning after being struck in the neck with a line drive. X-rays came back negative, but Wright displayed an ugly, red, 3-inch knot on the side of his neck.
“It was a pitcher’s worst nightmare,” he said. “You throw the ball and then it’s right there on you. He got me pretty good.”
The Yankees announced Thursday that right-hander Kevin Brown would not return this season due to back problems. Rookie starter Chien Ming-Wang is still working his way back from a shoulder injury, Mike Mussina will miss his next start due to inflammation in his right elbow and Carl Pavano has already been shut down for the year because of shoulder problems.
The A’s dropped the final two games of their series in Anaheim, falling back into a first-place tie with the Angels.
Rookie Ervin Santana pitched 8 1-3 brilliant innings to shut down the Oakland offense, which managed just three runs during the three-game set.
The A’s have lost five of six to the Yankees this year, including a three-game sweep in Oakland from May 13-15.