NEW YORK (AP)—Joe Torre offered a simple explanation for his team’s recent turnaround.
“Looseness. These guys are having fun with each other,” the Yankees’ manager said Sunday after New York’s sluggers broke loose in a 13-6 victory over the Pirates.
Abreu and Rodriguez each scored four times and Hideki Matsui hit a two-run double, helping the resurgent Yankees (30-31) set a season high for runs in winning for the ninth time in 11 games. It’s their longest winning streak since they won six straight last September.
Torre and several players pointed to a turning point late last month in Toronto, where the Yankees held a team meeting. They were so tight during a five-game skid, it seemed nobody smiled for days. So to loosen everyone up, Torre canceled batting practice one afternoon and told his players to come to the ballpark only an hour before the game.
“Joe sat us all down and talked to us very firmly,” Rodriguez said. “I think our mood came, and then the winning came after.”
One day after Roger Clemens’ successful return, New York completed a three-game sweep and sent the Pirates to their ninth defeat in 12 games. Pittsburgh also was swept at Yankee Stadium in an interleague series two years ago and hasn’t won at the ballpark since Game 5 of the 1960 World Series.
“They’re hot right now. We just played them at a bad time,” Pittsburgh’s Xavier Nady said.
Sean Henn (2-0) replaced ineffective rookie Tyler Clippard and worked two scoreless innings for the win. New York’s much-maligned bullpen came through, with four relievers combining for 5 1-3 shutout innings.
On offense, the Yankees tagged former teammate Shawn Chacon (2-1), who allowed seven runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings.
“They’re so patient. They’re so disciplined at the plate,” Chacon said. “They make you put the ball over the plate and they wait for their pitch.”
Abreu tripled, doubled and walked during a perfect day at the dish. New York’s 3-4-5 hitters, Abreu, Rodriguez and Matsui, finished 8-for-11 with four walks.
Rodriguez has 18 RBIs in 35 June at-bats after driving home 11 runs in 102 at-bats in May. Abreu is hitting .500 (19-for-38) this month with six doubles, nine RBIs and 10 walks, raising his average from .228 to .272.
“I’m swinging at better pitches right now. I’m more consistent right now. It started in Boston when I got a couple of hits the other way,” Abreu said. “I always stay positive.”
It was Abreu’s seventh multihit effort in 10 June games.
“It’s a treat to hit behind him,” Rodriguez said, pointing out that Abreu saw about 40 pitches Sunday, an astounding total.
With the Yankees trailing 6-5 in the fourth, Rodriguez greeted reliever Josh Sharpless by driving a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a three-run homer.
A-Rod, who leads the major leagues with 24 homers and 63 RBIs, made it 10-6 with a two-run shot in the sixth off Masumi Kuwata, called up Saturday from Triple-A Indianapolis when reliever Salomon Torres (elbow) went on the disabled list.
“His control is usually pinpoint, but he didn’t get the ball in far enough,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “They are as good as I’ve seen, as far as their approach is concerned. No one guy in that lineup shows panic. When they get two strikes, they just grind it out. They are really good.”
It was the fourth multihomer game this season for Rodriguez and the 48th of his career. He came out for a curtain call, delighting the sellout crowd of 54,292.
“When you see him hit a home run to right field, he makes it look so easy,” Torre said.
The 39-year-old Kuwata became the oldest player to make his major league debut since another Pirates pitcher, 41-year-old Diomedes Olivo, on Sept. 5, 1960, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Wil Nieves had an RBI single in the seventh, and Abreu hit a two-run double.
Henn escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth to preserve an 8-6 lead.
New York jumped on Chacon for three runs in the first. Abreu drove in one with his first triple for the Yankees, and Matsui added a two-run double.
Clippard got in trouble after a leadoff walk in the second, and Jose Castillo hit a two-run single.
Clippard quickly squandered the lead. He walked two in the fourth and gave up a two-run double to No. 9 batter Chris Duffy, followed by Jose Bautista’s two-run single off the left-field fence that put Pittsburgh up 6-5. But Bautista got himself hung up between first and second in a horrendous bit of baserunning and was tagged out easily as he jogged into second.
It was Jason Giambi bat day at Yankee Stadium. … Kuwata became the first Japanese player in Pirates history.