Yankees 1, Blue Jays 0
NEW YORK (AP)—Only once in the hallowed history of the New York Yankees had they won 1-0 during the regular season on a game-ending home run—until Ruben Sierra came through with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sierra’s drive over the center-field wall lifted the Yankees to a dramatic win on a muggy afternoon after Orlando Hernandez gave their frail pitching rotation a big boost heading into New York’s weekend series at Fenway Park.
“It was very exciting,” Sierra said.
And historic, too.
The only previous 1-0 win on a game-ending homer for New York was accomplished by Joe Pepitone with leadoff shot in the ninth against the California Angels’ Hoyt Wilhelm on May 18, 1969, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In addition, Tommy Henrich did it against Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe leading off the ninth inning of the 1949 World Series opener.
After the win, the Yankees happily headed to Boston and will start a weekend series with an 8 1/2 -game lead over the second-place Red Sox, matching their season high. With Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown still sidelined, Jon Lieber, Tanyon Sturtze and Jose Contreras are scheduled to start against Curt Schilling, Bronson Arroyo and Derek Lowe.
“You can’t put anybody to sleep in July,” Yankees manager Joe Torre cautioned before adding: “We’re certainly in better shape than they are.”
For most of the afternoon, the crowd of 53,657 was entertained by a great pitching duel between Hernandez and former Yankee Ted Lilly.
“I threw him two fastballs away and I tried to elevate a fastball,” Chulk said.
Sierra elevated it for him, putting it over the 408-foot sign for his fourth game-ending homer—first since April 6, 1989, for Texas off Toronto’s Tom Henke.
“It’s a long time since I’ve hit a walkoff home run,” Sierra said.
Hernandez bewildered the Blue Jays in his third start since returning from a 1 1/2 -year layoff caused by a shoulder injury.
El Duque, who won his first two starts, allowed four hits, walked one and struck out 10, reaching double digits for the fifth time in his career, the first since he fanned 11 at Oakland on April 23, 2002.
His performance was impressive. After swinging through a third strike in the fifth, Armando Rios just stared.
“That’s the goal, to keep them off-balance,” Hernandez said in a mixture of English and Spanish. “I’ve improved a lot. I’m looking for 100 (percent), not 95.”
Throwing both a slider and curveball from different arm slots, El Duque gave up singles to his first two batters, then struck out Vernon Wells and Carlos Delgado, and retired Eric Hinske on a comebacker.
“Changing speeds, arm angles, he’s tough to pick up,” Delgado said. “He got out of the jam in the first inning. We had a pretty good chance there and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
“You could see it was a real giant step forward for him today,” Torre said.
Facing the Yankees for the second time, Lilly was just as good, taking a one-hitter into the seventh and allowing three hits over 6 2-3 innings. Still, Toronto headed home from its road trip to Texas, Oakland and New York smarting from nine losses in 10 games.
“It’s hard to be excited about too much right now,” Lilly said.
New York played without injured SS Derek Jeter (fractured hand) and 1B Jason Giambi (intestinal parasite). Initial tests on Giambi for other diseases were negative, GM Brian Cashman said. … Delgado, who has drawn attention for refusing to stand during “God Bless America,” was booed mildly when he walked to the plate for his first three at-bats. He was booed more loudly when he ran to his position after a recording of the song was played during the seventh-inning stretch and again when he hit in the ninth, with some fans chanting “U-S-A!” Delgado wasn’t surprised. “Not at all, one thing about New York is that they are passionate. You know what they like and don’t like.” … Brown is scheduled to start Sunday for the Yankees’ Class A Staten Island farm team. If all goes well, he could return to the Yankees and start the following Friday against Baltimore, Torre said. … Pepitone’s homer came in the second game of a doubleheader. The Yankees won the opener 3-1 on Pepitone’s three-run homer off Andy Messersmith.