Giambi and Tino Martinez homered twice, and New York matched its season high with six to back Small in his first major league start in nine years, the Yankees’ 8-4 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.
“We had a great team. We’ve put some guys in the major leagues. … Aaron was our best pitcher. He was tall and threw 90,” Giambi said. “When he gets his confidence going, he can be a factor. He can handle spot starts and really help this team out.”
Small (1-0) became the 12th different New York starter this season, the most for any team. He worked 5 1-3 innings in his Yankees debut for his first victory since Sept. 2, 1998, in his first start since September 1996 for Oakland.
“I told (Jason) after the game was over, `Huskies Pride.’ That was the high school we went to,” Small said. “That was fun.”
After they played together in 1989 as seniors at South Hills High in West Covina, Calif., Small was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and started his professional career that summer, while Giambi went to Long Beach State and was drafted by Oakland in 1992. They were teammates with the Athletics from 1996-98.
Benoit had retired eight more in a row until Martinez’s one-out homer in the fifth. Robinson Cano’s three-run homer made it 6-1, and Benoit was pulled without throwing a pitch in the sixth even after coming out to warm up.
“They got good pitches to hit and hit it out,” said Benoit, who had allowed just two runs over 26 innings in 11 relief appearances. “I felt comfortable. Things happen. This was one of the bad days.”
Giambi, whose first homer to center just missed the glove of Gary Matthews Jr., left no doubt about the second one, his 13th of the season—and majors-best eighth in July. His 408-foot shot to right-center in the sixth gave him his second multihomer game this season, and 25th of his career.
“I’m feeling good,” said Giambi, who reached base three times and raised his batting average to .284. “I got some good pitches to hit. I’m trying to keep it simple.”
Martinez homered again in the ninth, his 15th, an inning after his fielding error allowed a Texas run.
It was his second multihomer game this season and 22nd of his career. It was also his 19th homer at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, matching Carlos Delgado for the most by a visitor.
“When Tino was signed here, we didn’t expect this much production,” manager Joe Torre said. “He’s a true pro. He made the error, came in and apologized to me, and then hit a home run.”
A day after being held to a single run—which came after a walk, a bunt and a single—the Yankees upped their July homer total to 36 in 16 games. They are second in the major leagues with 130 homers to the Rangers’ 158, but lead the majors with 519 runs scored.
The Yankees won for the 12th time in 15 games to remain a half-game behind Boston in the AL East. They begin a four-game series at the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels on Thursday.
Texas had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth before reliever Tanyon Sturtze, who gave up an RBI double to Richard Hidalgo and walked Matthews right after coming in, got Rod Barajas on an infield popup and David Dellucci on an inning-ending grounder.
Hidalgo jammed his left shoulder into the wall after unsuccessfully chasing down Jeter’s foul ball down the right-field line leading off the game. Hidalgo stayed in and hit a solo homer, his 15th, in the second before his run-scoring double that made it 7-3.
“I wouldn’t say we’re too dependent on the home run,” Dellucci said. “Our strong point is hitting the ball out of the park, but it’s magnified when we’re not winning games.”
The other Texas runs came on grounders by Dellucci, Matthews scoring after a leadoff double in the fifth and Barajas coming home on the ball through Martinez’s legs.
Small allowed three runs and five hits, throwing 51 of 91 pitches for strikes. The right-hander, who pitched for his seventh different team in eight major league seasons since 1994, struck out three and walked four.
Giambi has a .437 on-base percentage, which would lead the AL if he had three more plate appearances. He was 2-for-3 with a walk Wednesday. … Texas has lost five of seven since the All-Star break. … Rodriguez was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. … It’s the fourth time in Rangers history that they have allowed six home runs in a game. The last time was in June 2004 at Yankee Stadium.