Yankees 5, Cardinals 2
NEW YORK (AP)—Suddenly, the New York Yankees look like a dominant team again.
Mike Mussina pitched eight sharp innings and Robin Ventura hit a two-run double that sent New York over the St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 Sunday for a three-game sweep in their first meeting since the 1964 World Series.
The Yankees have won four straight—including Roger Clemens’ 300th career victory—since manager Joe Torre held a team meeting after a record six Houston pitchers combined for the first no-hitter against New York in 45 years.
“I don’t think I told them anything that they didn’t know,” Torre said. “They were pretty embarrassed by that game—we all were. You find out about your character.”
Albert Pujols homered for the Cardinals, who have dropped four of five.
The Yankees patiently worked six walks from control artist Woody Williams, matching his career high. The right-hander had issued only 16 free passes all season coming in.
Mussina (9-4) retired his final 13 batters and allowed four hits, winning his second start in a row after losing four consecutive decisions. He walked one and struck out five, giving him 99 Ks this season and passing Clemens for the AL lead.
The Yankees are back to playing crisp baseball after six mistake-filled weeks that saw them go 16-24 following a 20-4 start.
“It was just a good, solid game for us,” Mussina said. “That’s what this team did the whole month of April.”
Mariano Rivera needed only three pitches in the ninth to earn his ninth save in 10 chances.
Williams (8-2) entered second in the NL with a 2.33 ERA but struggled against the streaking Yankees.
Taking one close pitch after another, Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada walked to start a four-run sixth. Williams went to a 3-2 count on Ventura, who got on top of a high fastball—the 10th pitch of the at-bat—and lined a two-run double to right-center for a 3-2 lead.
“You have enough at-bats like that and you have a pretty good chance,” Ventura said. “He’s a guy that makes you swing at a lot of pitches that run off the plate. I think we were patient enough today.”
Williams was visibly frustrated with plate umpire Larry Vanover’s tight strike zone, and manager Tony La Russa jawed with Vanover during the sixth.
Williams threw 39 pitches in the inning and got only one out before giving way to Esteban Yan.
“I don’t feel like I got a fair deal by any means,” Williams said. “But I don’t want to make excuses. I am a control pitcher and I didn’t make the pitches I had to make.”
On a beautiful afternoon in the Bronx, the Yankees maintained their lead in the AL East over Boston, delighting a Father’s Day crowd of 54,797.
“It’s nice, I know my dad was watching,” Ventura said.
Giambi’s two-out RBI single gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the third. Derek Jeter, who stole second on the previous pitch with a headfirst slide, barely beat left fielder Orlando Palmeiro’s throw home with a strong, feetfirst slide under catcher Joe Girardi.
Pujols connected for his 18th home run in the fourth, a loud shot to left. Kerry Robinson, who entered batting only .164 in 55 at-bats, added a two-out RBI single.
Mussina did not allow another baserunner after that, but Torre never considered sending him out for the ninth.
“No, we’ve got that No. 42 out there who’s pretty good. When you have him out there, your starters go out for the eighth inning knowing they’re going to have to empty their tank,” Torre said.
Former Yankees star Tino Martinez batted cleanup and received warm applausebefore each at-bat for the third straight day. He went 1-for-3.
Torre tied Ralph Houk for 13th on the career list with 1,619 wins as a manager. … Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds was a late scratch from the lineup because of a stomach illness. Robinson started in his place. Edmonds pinch-hit in the ninth and made the game’s final out. … Williams has walked six four times in his career, the last on Sept. 3, 1999, at Florida. … Girardi, who won three World Series titles from 1996-99 with New York, got his first start of the series behind the plate for St. Louis and went 0-for-3. … Matsui made a terrific running catch in deep center to take away extra bases from Robinson in the seventh. … Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen, bothered by stiffness in his neck and back recently, left in the seventh inning but was expected to play Mondaynight at Milwaukee.