CLEVELAND (AP)—Their record is barely above average, one of their superstars is still limping around and their everyday catcher is on the disabled list.
The New York Yankees aren’t themselves.
But at least they’re headed home.
Mike Mussina earned his 253rd win, tying Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell on the career list, and the Yankees concluded an extended odyssey on the road by making the most of their five hits in a 5-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.
After winning the final two games to split the four-game series, the Yankees packed their bags for New York to end a stretch of playing 18 of 20 games away from home. On Tuesday night, they’ll be back in the comforts of Yankee Stadium after 18 road games in April—the most by any team in the month.
“I’ve got to find my house key,” Mussina joked. “It’s been so long since we’ve been home, we just assumed we’re going to another hotel.”
At 14-13, the Yankees aren’t playing up to their potential or payroll, but considering the demanding schedule and a slew of injuries, they’ll take it.
“Basically we played three weeks in a row on the road,” Mussina said. “That was a seven-city road trip over three weeks and I think we played .500 for that stretch. We should be pleased with ourselves.”
Mussina (3-3) allowed two runs and seven hits in five innings, just enough to catch Hubbell for 41st place. The 39-year-old had his second consecutive solid outing after there was speculation he might lose his spot in the rotation.
Mussina was followed by Jonathan Albaladejo, Kyle Farnsworth, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, who worked the ninth for his eighth save in eight tries. New York’s bullpen held the Indians to one hit over the final four innings.
But in the sixth, New York strung together four hits—three didn’t leave the infield—two groundouts and a hit batter to score four times and take a 4-2 lead. Matsui’s RBI double in the eighth made it 5-2.
“Sometimes it’s not how you hit them, it’s where you hit them,” New York manager Joe Girardi said.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Yankees will take it on a day when they had to place durable catcher Jorge Posada on the disabled list for the first time in his career. The 36-year-old has been bothered by a shoulder problem for weeks. He left the team to have his shoulder examined by famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
The Yankees are still awaiting test results on Posada, who played in at least 137 games in each of the past eight seasons. Girardi is trying to stay optimistic he’ll get back his catcher, who signed a four-year, $52.4 million contract before the season.
“I have my fingers crossed,” Girardi said.
He’s also going to keep a close eye on Alex Rodriguez, who played the entire series but is still slowed by a strained right quadriceps. Rodriguez was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, and Girardi said he’ll likely sit his All-Star third baseman on Tuesday against Detroit.
“He’s not 100 percent and we felt it was best to get him out of there,” Girardi said. “He gave us four games and kind of sucked it up for us.”
Rodriguez said he felt a “pull” while running the bases.
“It’s hard for me not to play 100 percent,” Rodriguez said. “The key for me is to get healthy.”
Laffey had never faced the Yankees, but he didn’t look scared of their big names or big salaries.
Laffey retired 14 straight before hitting Robinson Cano in the ribs with a pitch in the fifth.
With Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who no-hit the Yankees 62 years ago this week, watching from the press box, Laffey took a no-hitter into the sixth before New York manufactured a scoring rally that hardly befit their Bronx Bombing image.
Melky Cabrera hit an infield single and Jeter was safe on a bad-hop roller to third. Abreu’s single loaded the bases and Laffey got ahead of Rodriguez 1-2 before hitting him on the left leg to force in New York’s first run.
Giambi and Matsui followed with RBI groundouts, putting the Yankees up 3-0 and chasing Laffey. Jensen Lewis came on and got Morgan Ensberg to tap one near the mound, but the right-hander didn’t field it cleanly and Ensberg beat it out for an infield single as Rodriguez scored.
“It was very frustrating,” Indians infielder Jamey Carroll said. “You saw them hit balls that took just the right hop, found just the right hole. What we have to do is keep battling and it will eventually happen for us, too.”
The Indians, who played their second straight game without All-Star center fielder Grady Sizemore, took a 2-0 lead in the fifth on a run-scoring single by Jason Michaels and Travis Hafner’s sacrifice fly.
Mussina is also tied with Bert Blyleven for 12th place in AL wins. … Hafner is batting just .149 (7-for-47) with seven RBIs in his last 13 games. … Indians closer Joe Borowski played catch for the first time since going on the DL two weeks ago with a strained triceps. “It felt as normal as normal can be,” said Borowski, who threw from 60 feet and will increase his distance every day with a goal of pitching off a mound in nine days. … Sizemore rested a sprained right ankle but was available to pinch-hit. … Cleveland’s Ryan Garko went 0-for-4, bounced into a double play and extended his hitless streak to 23 at-bats.