While the bottom of the New York Yankees’ starting rotation continues to look somewhat shaky, their powerful lineup appears to be rounding into form.
New York failed to get a dominant pitching effort for the second consecutive game Wednesday, as Shawn Chacon allowed five runs in six innings, but an offense that’s expected to be among baseball’s best delivered for the third straight game. Gary Sheffield homered and drove in four runs for the Yankees, who have scored 31 runs in the last three contests.
New York (4-4) managed only 10 runs during last week’s four-game losing streak, but the lineup has since powered the team to three straight wins. Sheffield, who came in hitting .207 with one homer and four RBIs, benefited from manager Joe Torre’s decision to start him at designated hitter.
“It did help. I didn’t have to think about defense,” Sheffield said. “I felt good today. I felt strong in my last at-bat.”
While the Yankees look to be hitting their stride offensively, they’re waiting for Wang and Chacon, their No. 3 and No. 4 starters, to catch up. Despite earning his first win of the season, Chacon struggled somewhat for the second straight start, allowing five runs and seven hits in six innings. He did, however, settle down after a rough first inning, retiring 11 of his next 12 hitters after Emil Brown’s RBI double that gave Kansas City a 3-0 lead.
“With a team like this, you don’t panic,” Chacon said. “I got rewarded for keeping the game close.”
Chacon’s effort followed a second consecutive sub-par outing by Wang in Tuesday’s series opener, as he allowed five runs and eight hits in six innings of New York’s 9-7 victory.
Top starters Johnson and Mike Mussina have made two starts apiece and pitched well, posting a 2.40 ERA and a 2.77 ERA, respectively.
The Yankees will look to Johnson (1-1) to give them a dominant performance after the big left-hander turned in his second strong outing Saturday, pitching a complete game but suffering a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Johnson won his first start 15-2 over Oakland in the season opener April 3 with seven innings of one-run ball.
Johnson is 13-7 with six complete games and a 3.08 ERA in 26 appearances against the Royals.
On Wednesday, Jason Giambi went 2-for-4 with two run-scoring doubles and leadoff hitter Johnny Damon went 2-for-4 with two runs and reached base three times. Derek Jeter went 1-for-3 with three runs, and Jorge Posada and Miguel Cairo each had two hits for New York, which sent the Royals to their 13th straight loss at Yankee Stadium—a skid that dates to August 2002.
Kansas City led for the second straight day in an attempt to end that streak, as Reggie Sanders hit a two-run homer in the first inning before Brown’s RBI double, but Sheffield erased the deficit in the bottom half with his 451st career homer. The Royals cut the Yankees’ 6-3 lead to one run in the fifth on consecutive RBI doubles by Mark Grudzielanek and Doug Mientkiewicz, but New York got run-scoring singles in the bottom half from Cairo and Damon.
On Tuesday, Kansas City led 7-4 in the eighth when New York rallied for five runs.
The Royals will send right-hander Denny Bautista to the mound for his second start of the season Thursday. Bautista pitched well in his first outing, limiting the Chicago White Sox to one run in six innings of a 4-3 victory Saturday, although he didn’t get the decision. He has made two career appearances against New York, both in relief in 2004, and allowed eight runs in six innings.
New York heads out on a five-game road trip through Minnesota and Toronto after Thursday’s contest, while Kansas City travels to Tampa to continue its nine-game swing.