Yankees 9, Indians 1
NEW YORK (AP)—That record-setting defeat hit the New York Yankees like a punch in the face, stirring up their pride and refocusing their attention.
Gary Sheffield had three RBIs to reach 100 for the seventh time, Jon Lieber pitched seven shutout innings and Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run homer Thursday night to lead New York to its second straight win, 9-1 over the Cleveland Indians.
With its AL East lead over second-place Boston cut to 3 1/2 games from 10 1/2 on Aug. 16, the Yankees have faced a torrent of questions this week, especially following Tuesday night’s 22-0 loss to the Indians. New York rebounded with a 5-3 victory Wednesday, then quickly broke on top Thursday.
“A game like that can wake you up,” Sheffield said. “We looked like we were just trying to get the schedule over with. We got a wake-up call. Now we’ve got a pennant race going.”
But even with the two wins, the Yankees failed to increase their margin over the Red Sox, who beat Anaheim 4-3 to sweep a three-game series. The Red Sox have won 21 of their last 25 games.
“The other night was a dark time,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Hopefully, it increases our determination to show ourselves what kind of a team we are.”
Sheffield hit an RBI single off third baseman Casey Blake in the second, had a run-scoring double in the fourth against Kazuhito Tadano, doubled again in the sixth and added a sacrifice fly in the eighth to raise his RBIs total to 101. He became only the second player to reach 100 RBIs with five teams, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first since Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers from 1887-94.
Fans periodically serenaded Sheffield with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
“If they decide it, I guess I win it,” said Sheffield, wearing a Jim Brown No. 32 Cleveland Browns jersey after the game.
Lieber (10-8) followed Orlando Hernandez’s seven innings of one-run ball Wednesday with a stellar effort of his own. He let just one runner get past first base, giving up five hits, striking out three and walking one.
“It’s great, especially with what this team did to us a couple of days ago,” he said. “I know it’s still fresh in my mind, my mouth.”
Lieber, New York’s fifth starter at the beginning of the season, and Hernandez (6-0), who missed the first half while recovering from shoulder surgery, have combined for 16 wins, exactly half the total of New York’s top three starters, Kevin Brown (10-3), Mike Mussina (9-8) and Javier Vazquez (13-8).
Still regaining arm strength following elbow surgery in August 2002, Lieber had his first scoreless outing since pitching eight shutout innings for the Chicago Cubs against the New York Mets on April 9, 2002.
“I finally can say I felt like my old self tonight,” Lieber said.
Paul Quantrill pitched the eighth and was followed by Steve Karsay, who had been sidelined since the end of the 2002 season with back and shoulder injuries that needed operations. After receiving a big ovation when he was introduced, Karsay allowed a home run on his first pitch to Victor Martinez.
“Not really the way I envisioned starting out after two years,” Karsay said. “I guess he didn’t get the memo that I haven’t pitched in two years, to kind of take a pitch and see what I’ve got.”
Martinez was Cleveland’s lone bright spot, reaching 100 RBIs for the first time.
“Leading 9-0, I didn’t think they wanted to walk anybody,” he said. “I was just looking for a fastball. He gave me the fastball, right down the middle.”
Lee allowed six runs and five hits in 1 2-3 innings, falling to 0-6 in nine starts since beating Seattle on July 16, which made him 10-1.
“I don’t know the answer,” he said. “I need to change something. I don’t know what it is, but I need to do it pretty quick.”
Rodriguez grounded out on a blooper pitch from Tadano with Sheffield on second, ending the sixth inning. … New York has won 10 of its last 11 home games against Cleveland. … The crowd of 37,963 was the smallest at Yankee Stadium since June 27, a makeup game against the Mets in which the turnstile count (37,305) was used instead of tickets sold for the opener of a day-night doubleheader. … The series marked the start an 11-game homestand for the Yankees, who play three games against Baltimore this weekend followed by five against Tampa Bay, including a Labor Day doubleheader Monday.