Cleveland Indians pitcher Jeremy Sowers probably couldn’t face a much tougher situation in his second major league start—a matchup with the New York Yankees following one of their biggest offensive nights of the season.
Sowers (0-1, 7.20 ERA) looks to shut down the Yankee bats as Cleveland and New York open a four-game series at Jacobs Field.
The 23-year-old left-hander pitched five innings and gave up four runs and five hits, including two home runs, in a 4-2 loss against Cincinnati in his major league debut June 25. Judging by the performance of New York’s lineup Sunday night, Sowers may need to have made some dramatic improvement in between starts to give his team a chance.
Alex Rodriguez hit a grand slam and a three-run homer, and the Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit for a 16-7 victory over the New York Mets. The offensive output was their best since scoring 17 runs against Toronto on April 29.
Nick Green added a two-run homer for New York (46-33), which scored 15 runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
“We needed to win this game. We don’t have a 10-game lead like they do,” Rodriguez said of the Mets. “Every game for us is monumental.”
The Yankees took two of three from the Mets, but trail first-place Boston in the AL East by a season-high four games despite winning eight of 11.
A big problem for New York this season has been an overworked bullpen, and none of their starters in the Mets series lasted past the sixth inning. Manager Joe Torre lifted a struggling Jaret Wright on Sunday after only 1 2-3 innings, but Torre hopes he has the right pitcher taking the mound Monday in Chien-Ming Wang (8-3, 4.01) as he looks to give his relievers a break.
The right-hander has been one of the Yankees’ most dependable starters this season, pitching at least seven innings in each of his last five outings and going 3-1 in that span. He’s thrown at least seven innings in 10 of 17 starts this season.
Wang gave up two runs in eight innings of New York’s 4-3, 12-inning win over Atlanta on Wednesday.
“You send him out there and expect something like this, and it doesn’t surprise you when he does it,” Torre said. “But it’s unfair to keep expecting that from him, even though he’s certainly been capable of it.”
Wang dominated the Indians on June 13, giving up five hits in 7 1-3 innings to earn a 1-0 win.
“He has a great sinker, a heavy ball,” said Cleveland third baseman Aaron Boone, who’s 5-for-6 lifetime against Wang. “That was about the best sinker we’ve seen this year. He was tough, no doubt about it.”
Wang won his other start against the Indians on July 8, pitching 6 2-3 innings and giving up three runs in a 5-4 win at Yankee Stadium.
Boone lifted the Indians (37-43) to a 6-3 win over the Reds on Sunday, emerging from a long slump with a tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning.
“I’ve been so not hitting homers this year. It felt good to get one,” said Boone, who was in a 4-for-42 slump and hadn’t homered since June 7. “The last thing I want to do is because I haven’t been hitting home runs, to go up there and try to.”
While Cleveland’s pitching staff continued its season-long struggle in the three-game set against the Reds, giving up 19 runs and eight homers, the Indians managed to win the last two games.
Cleveland has won four of six, with both losses coming by one run.
“We’ve definitely been playing better baseball,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose club went 3-3 on its road trip. “We should have been 6-0 on the trip. Hopefully this is a good start for us.”
New York took two of three from Cleveland from June 13-15 at Yankee Stadium.