ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—At first, Johnny Damon couldn’t find the ball. Then he recovered and made a spectacular catch.
“I just said great catch, thank you,” Yankees starting pitcher Shawn Chacon said.
Damon’s running catch with his glove fully extended ended the first inning, the first of two times in New York’s 6-1 victory over Texas on Saturday night that the center fielder made impressive plays for third outs to leave two runners standed.
“That helped us all. You never know the way that game goes,” manager Joe Torre said. “That’s why Johnny Damon is out there, to do the things he does, whether it’s on the bases, at bat, in the field.”
Damon also started New York’s game-turning outburst in the sixth inning by leading off with an infield single.
The Rangers had runners at first and second in the fifth when Damon tracked down Hank Blalock’s flyball. In the first, after Blalock’s RBI single tied the game at 1 and with two runners still on, Damon had to go even farther.
“I didn’t see the ball,” Damon said. “Fortunately, I was able to recover and catch the ball. I was relying on the ball finding my glove. After I picked the ball up, I knew where I had to go.”
Chacon (4-1) pitched 6 1-3 innings to win his fourth straight start, this the first not to follow a Yankees loss. He allowed only one run for the third straight game, and had six strikeouts and four walks.
With the game tied 1-1, Damon led off the sixth with a high chopper. Mark Teixeira fielded the ball behind first base in foul territory, then scooped it to Kameron Loe (1-3), who stepped on the bag almost simultaneously with Damon. Umpire Chad Fairchild called Damon safe, though at least one television replay appeared to show Loe’s foot hitting the base first.
“I beat him by a half-step. Things kind of escalated from there,” said Loe, who watched the replay after he left the game.
Damon obviously had a different opinion.
“Oh yeah, I had it beat. His foot was a little slower than mine,” Damon said. “Fortunately for us, the right call was made.”
The Rangers then had a pitchout called, but Damon still stole the base—and got third as well—when nobody covered the bag for catcher Rod Barajas’ throw that went into the outfield.
Derek Jeter had an RBI single on the next pitch and Jason Giambi drew another walk before A-Rod homered to left-center, his sixth, to give New York a 5-1 lead and chase Loe.
Damon robbed Mench of another hit in the fourth with another running catch after Phil Nevin had a leadoff double.
“It was a weird night,” Mench said. “The wind was pushing everything toward center field.”
Seemingly right into Damon’s glove.
Torre, who has 1,893 career victories, on Sunday can join Joe McCarthy (1,460), Casey Stengel (1,149) and Miller Huggins (1,067) with 1,000 managerial victories with the Yankees. Torre has the longest uninterrupted tenure by a New York manager since Stengel from 1949-60.
Giambi’s 10th homer came in the first, surrounded by Loe’s only three strikeouts in his five-plus innings. Giambi drew two walks to increase his AL-leading total to 34.
Before their five-run outburst in the sixth, the Yankees had only the homer by Giambi and a single. New York’s outs in the fifth were on two foul pops and a weak flyball to right.
Young had two hits, his 16th multihit game for the Rangers, who have lost two in a row after a six-game winning streak. They still have won 15 of 22 games since starting the season 2-7.
Rodriguez has 435 career homers, three short of Andre Dawson for 33rd place on the all-time list. He broke a tie with former Rangers teammate Juan Gonzalez for 35th. … Giambi has reached base in 54 of his last 94 plate appearances—20 hits, 31 walks and hit by three pitches. … There were threatening clouds when the game started on time. It rained only briefly during the second inning without a delay. There was no batting practice on the field.