Yankees 11, Rangers 1
NEW YORK (AP)—As intimidating as Randy Johnson can be, he knew he couldn’t challenge an aggressive Texas lineup with only fastballs. So he used a nasty slider and a diving splitter to work all parts of the strike zone.
The plan worked to near perfection for eight dominant innings Sunday, and Johnson won for the first time since the season opener as the New York Yankees beat the Rangers 11-1 to avoid a three-game sweep.
“I wasn’t overpowering, but who cares?” Johnson said. “I’d rather pitch a game like today: pitch efficient, quick innings, keep the defense sharp and get the offense back out there.”
Derek Jeter finished a triple shy of the cycle and drove in three runs, and Andy Phillips hit a three-run homer in the eighth and had four RBIs for New York. A Yankees offense that mustered just 12 hits and five runs in two losses to Texas amassed 14 hits Sunday and used two big innings against Pedro Astacio to help Johnson earn his first win since beating Boston on April 3.
After giving up 16 runs—14 earned—in his last three starts, Johnson pitched like the ace the Yankees expected when they traded for him in the offseason, stopping the team’s two-game skid and giving a taxed bullpen some much-needed rest.
“He looked like he pretty much had command of everything—splitter, slider,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He was locating everything.”
The Big Unit breezed into the sixth, allowing just a bloop single in the second to Kevin Mench that dropped between three fielders in shallow center. After getting two quick outs in the inning, though, Johnson was temporarily untracked by a timeout called by plate umpire Laz Diaz in the middle of his motion.
“I’m upset I gave up the one run today,” Johnson said. “So you could imagine how I felt my last three starts.”
But Johnson (2-1) quickly found his rhythm again, striking out two in the seventh and retiring his last seven batters. He finished with seven strikeouts to increase his career total to 4,201. Johnson hasn’t struck out 10 batters in any of his five starts this season.
“When you saw the outs he got on quick counts early, you just knew it had the potential to be a challenging day,” Texas manager Buck Showalter said. “He threw a lot of splitters today. I think at this stage of his career he’s not a pure velocity guy.”
Astacio (1-2) had given up just four runs in his first three starts after spending nearly all of the past two seasons on the disabled list, but was roughed up for seven runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings—all the hits and runs coming in the second and fifth.
“If Pedro stays healthy, he’s going to win a lot of ballgames for us,” Showalter said.
Phillips, making his first of the season, had an RBI double in a four-run second. The Yankees got five hits, including RBI singles from Jorge Posada and Tony Womack, and a sacrifice fly from Jeter to take a 4-0 lead.
New York scored three times in the fifth, batting around for the sixth time this season. Jeter had an RBI double to right-center, Sheffield an RBI single and Alex Rodriguez a run-scoring single to chase Astacio.
Jeter homered off Matt Riley in the sixth, his second of the season and the Yankees’ first in four games. Phillips connected for his first of the year and first at Yankee Stadium in the eighth, also off Riley, and earned a curtain call.
“A couple of the guys told me to go out there,” Phillips said. “I’m here to do what they tell me.”
Tom Gordon pitched the ninth for New York.
Johnson has retired his first three batters in each of his five starts this season and hasn’t allowed a first-inning run in 13 starts. … Rangers 3B Hank Blalock was given a day off, his first of the season. … Womack was caught stealing in the second, his second in four attempts this year.