This time, they couldn’t get out of town fast enough.
“I don’t want to see them again, how’s that?” manager Joe Torre said Thursday after the Rockies denied Roger Clemens his 350th win and completed a three-game sweep of the suddenly stumbling Yankees with a 4-3 victory.
The humidor has taken full effect and so has Colorado’s retooled pitching staff since the Yankees’ last visit to the ballpark on Blake Street, where they outscored the Rockies 41-29 in a three-game slugfest in 2002, setting a stadium record for runs scored by an opponent in a three-game series.
This time, the Rockies outscored New York 13-5, prompting their fans to wave brooms as the dejected Bombers swirled into their clubhouse after Thursday’s game.
The Yankees had won 14 of 17 coming into town and never saw this thumping coming even though the Rockies are playing well—a major league-best 20-7 since May 22 and an impressive 9-3 against the AL East.
“It’s something we certainly didn’t expect,” Torre said. “And again, not that we take anybody for granted because that’s not the way you play this game. (But) it’s not the way we’ve been playing over the last few weeks.”
While the Yankees were making baserunning blunders, leaving fat pitches out over the plate and going 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position over the three games, the Rockies were hitting their spots and getting all the timely hits.
“It all starts with the pitching,” said Rockies slugger Matt Holliday, who leads the majors with 107 hits. “The Yankees are a great offensive team and for them to give up only five runs in three games, on a warm week? Three days of warm weather. The ball was playing pretty fair but it was jumping pretty good. For them to give up five runs is great.”
Holliday’s RBI single with one out in the fifth broke a 2-2 tie and chased the Rocket, who failed to hold a 2-0 lead and allowed four earned runs and seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
Rodrigo Lopez (4-0) survived Hideki Matsui’s 428-foot, two-run home run into the rock pile in center field and lasted 5 2-3 innings against the Yankees, who fell 10 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East.
Clemens (1-2) was trying to become the first major leaguer to win 350 games since Warren Spahn did it for Milwaukee on Sept. 29, 1963, when Torre was the Braves’ catcher and Clemens had just celebrated his first birthday.
This was Clemens’ third start since making three minor league tuneups, and he lost for the second straight time. He gave up solo homers to Garrett Atkins, his eighth, and Troy Tulowitzki, his fourth, to erase the Yankees’ 2-0 lead in the second. Tulowitzki’s shot to left-center traveled an estimated 445 feet.
Clemens singled up the middle in the fifth, putting two runners on with one out, but Johnny Damon, playing center field to test his strained abdominal muscle and see if he can avoid a trip to the disabled list, lined into an inning-ending double play when Robinson Cano got caught too far off second base.
“The base hit helped us but it didn’t help him,” said Torre, who said Clemens got gassed because of a combination of the 93-degree weather and the high altitude.
“I was taking deep breaths on the mound. My mouth got dry a couple times,” Clemens said. “That was the more difficult part. Heat or cold is not a big deal. The one inning a storm blew in and the wind changed direction. The wind hit my chest and caused me to throw the ball out of the zone. But I made the adjustment. Then, the wind started to blow straight out.”
Kaz Matsui singled, stole second and scored on Holliday’s single to center field that chased Clemens. Atkins added a sacrifice fly off Scott Proctor to make it 4-2.
Derek Jeter’s sixth-inning double extended his hitting streak to 15 games, but he was thrown out on a grounder to the shortstop, which proved costly when the Yankees failed to score that inning.
“There’s no excuse for that. I tried to be aggressive,” said Jeter, who also got caught in no man’s land when Bobby Abreu missed a hit-and-run sign in the first inning.
Pinch-hitter Melky Cabrera’s sacrifice fly off Jorge Julio cut the Rockies’ lead to 4-3 in the seventh before Manny Corpas threw a scoreless eighth and Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 22 chances.
The Yankees are hoping this detour in Denver doesn’t portend another bad stretch like they had the first two months of the season.
“This was just hopefully a pothole that we just didn’t like very much,” Torre said. “But I don’t think we have any doubts on what kind of team we are right now. I think we just hit a bad spot.”
Clemens has struck out at least one batter in 200 consecutive starts, the third-longest streak in the majors behind Pedro Martinez’s 293 and Javier Vasquez’s 236, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Barring any changes, Clemens will get another shot at win No. 350 in Baltimore next week.