NEW YORK (AP)—On the eve of Roger Clemens’ return, the Yankees pulled out a victory reminiscent of their powerhouse days during the Rocket’s first tour in pinstripes.
Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera supplied the pitching, Derek Jeter hit a game-winning infield single in the 10th inning and New York overcame a huge defensive mistake to rally past the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 Friday night and extend a winning streak to four for the first time this season.
It seemed a lot like 1999.
“We didn’t plan it like that, but it just happened,” Rivera said.
Chris Duffy put Pittsburgh ahead 4-2 in the seventh with a two-run, inside-the-park homer that sailed over center fielder Melky Cabrera and bounced to the wall, but New York tied the score in the bottom half when Jeter chased Tom Gorzelanny with an RBI single and Jorge Posada hit a run-scoring single off Salomon Torres.
A night after getting five outs in Chicago to save Joe Torre’s 2,000th win as a manager, Rivera (2-3) pitched two innings for the first time since last Aug. 27, lowering his ERA to 4.13 with his eighth straight scoreless outing.
“These are the types of games that we’ve, in the past, have had a habit of winning,” Torre said.
And on Saturday, Clemens makes his first start for the Yankees since 2003.
“We’re excited, obviously,” Pettitte said. “It’s a good time for him to be coming back. We feel a lot better about ourselves.”
Pittsburgh, swept in a three-game interleague series at New York two years ago, remained winless at Yankee Stadium since the 1960 World Series.
“We played a great ballgame and we did everything we could do,” manager Jim Tracy said after his team lost for the seventh time in 10 games. “The unfortunate thing is that, obviously, offensively we had some good opportunities we couldn’t cash in.”
Robinson Cano started New York’s winning rally with a double to left-center leading off the 10th against Matt Capps (3-3), and Cabrera sacrificed him to third. Miguel Cairo followed with a bouncer to third baseman Jose Bautista, who looked back at Cano, then didn’t throw to first as Cairo reached on the single.
Cairo went to second on defensive indifference, Johnny Damon was intentionally walked and Jeter swung at a two-seam fastball that ran in on him and hit a slow bouncer that second baseman Freddy Sanchez couldn’t come up with.
“I was lucky, pretty much. That’s all you can say. It’s not like you try to hit it right there,” Jeter said. “I didn’t have a good swing. It wasn’t a good pitch to hit. It basically went where no one was standing.”
New York, which had won its last three games in Chicago, hadn’t stretched a winning streak to four since taking six in a row from Sept. 9-14. The Yankees (28-31) have won seven of nine and pulled within 5 1/2 games of Detroit, the wild-card leader.
“We’ve got a lot of fight right now,” Torre said. “It’s all going to come down to how well we pitch. And Rocket going tomorrow, hopefully he can get off on the right foot. He’s going to be excited tomorrow. I don’t care how long he’s been pitching and how old he is, he’s going to be excited tomorrow.”
Duffy, Pittsburgh’s No. 9 hitter, hit what appeared to be an inning-ending liner with one on in the seventh. Cabrera took a step in, then froze. Duffy scored without a throw to complete the two-run homer, sliding even when he didn’t have to.
Duffy was in awe of Yankee Stadium.
“This place is pretty special. It’s pretty neat,” he said.
It was virtually an instant replay of what occurred at Fenway Park on July 15, 2005, when Trot Nixon hit a liner that went off Cabrera’s glove and rolled to the wall for an insider-the-parker. Cabrera, just up from the minors, was sent back down two days later. Now he is the regular center fielder with Damon switched to designated hitter following an injury to regular DH Jason Giambi.
Cabrera blamed himself. Teammates said the ball took off on him.
“The ball hit out to Melky had to be at least 95 mph, and when it’s knuckling you have no idea what it’s going to do,” Damon said. “I feel for him. I’ve seen plenty of them.”
Damon also was pumped for Clemens’ start on Saturday.
“The place is going to be hopping,” he said. “We’re excited.”
Duffy hit Pittsburgh’s first inside-the-park homer since Wilson on July 2, 2004, off Milwaukee’s Brooks Kieschnick. … Gorzelanny allowed four runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings.