His team has been hampered by injuries, but New York Yankees manager Joe Torre likes the heart his players have shown.
The Yankees (30-20) try for their season high-tying fifth straight victory when they continue their four-game series with the major league-leading Detroit Tigers (35-17) on Wednesday at Comerica Park.
The Yankees beat the Tigers 11-6 in 11 innings on Tuesday despite being without two key players. Johnny Damon, who entered in the ninth as a pinch-runner, didn’t start because of continued problems with his foot and Gary Sheffield was scratched from the lineup just before the game due to soreness in his left wrist.
Damon injured his foot April 18 and aggravated it earlier this month, while Sheffield hurt his wrist a month ago and aggravated the injury during batting practice Tuesday.
Torre said he expects Sheffield to miss the last two games of this series and that he didn’t expect Damon to play Wednesday.
The Yankees, though, managed to move a season-high 10 games over .500 with Tuesday’s win and move into a tie with Boston atop the AL East despite blowing a pair of five-run leads.
“This is a terrific game for us,” Torre said. “There’s a lot of grittiness in here, and I like what I feel and see.”
Jason Giambi’s 11th inning homer, which sparked a five-run rally, was his first since May 10. Closer Mariano Rivera pitched three innings in the regular season for the first time since Sept. 6, 1996, but threw just 25 pitches.
The Tigers still own the best record in baseball despite three straight losses. Ivan Rodriguez drove in three runs Tuesday and hit a solo homer in the third that ended an overall 20-inning scoreless streak and a 25-inning drought against the Yankees, dating to last season.
“I told them that I’m proud of them, they battled,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I have absolutely no complaints. God bless them.”
Nate Robertson (5-2, 3.02 ERA) will look to help the Tigers snap their losing streak when he takes the mound Wednesday. He won his fourth straight decision on Friday, allowing three runs and seven hits in six innings of an 8-3 victory over Cleveland.
The left-hander is undefeated in his last seven starts and has not lost since dropping consecutive outings from April 12-17. He is 1-2 with a 4.38 ERA in four starts against the Yankees.
New York will counter with Mike Mussina (6-1, 2.72), who allowed three runs — all in the second inning—and four hits in six innings of the Yankees’ 7-6 loss to Kansas City on Friday. The right-hander has not received a decision in his last three starts after winning his previous five.
Mussina is 16-5 with a 2.61 ERA in 28 starts against the Tigers—his best ERA against any AL team.