<
>

Yankees defeat Twins for 12th straight time

4/20/2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Joe Torre's day ended better than it started.

Torre became the fifth New York Yankees manager to win 700 games
as his team beat the Minnesota 8-2 Sunday for its 12th straight win
over the Twins.

Torre, hired by team owner George Steinbrenner after the 1995
season, joins a list that includes Joe McCarthy (1,460), Casey
Stengel (1,149), Miller Huggins (1,067) and Ralph Houk (944).

"Here I am having the greatest time of my life,'' Torre said
after the game.

A few hours earlier, he didn't sound happy after he learned
Steinbrenner overrode his decision to send pitcher Jose Contreras
to Triple-A Columbus and instead ordered the struggling
right-hander to report to the Yankees' minor league complex in
Tampa, Fla.

"My problem yesterday is that I sat in my room with this young
man, told him where he was going,'' a puzzled Torre said before the
game. "Turns out, I'm the liar there. That, I'm not crazy about.''

But Torre felt better after watching his team dominate
Minnesota, which has lost three straight and closes out its
four-game homestand against the Yankees on Monday.

Mike Mussina, who improved to 20-2 against the Twins, pitched
seven strong innings, and Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams each
homered to lead the Yankees, whose 15-3 start is the best in team
history.

Asked if the game helped take his mind off the Contreras issue,
Torre nodded and said: "The game is always a priority.''

Mussina (4-0) allowed five hits while the Yankees got a
three-run homer in the first inning from Giambi and a solo shot in
the third from Williams. Giambi's homer was his first since the
opening week of the season.

"That was huge for him,'' Torre said. "He's been pretty dry,
and I know it's been bothering him. I know it was important for
him.''

Giambi's shot came after Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson opened
the games with singles off Kyle Lohse. Giambi, hitless in 11
at-bats and in a 2-for-21 slide, hit a 3-1 pitch for his fourth
homer, his first since April 4 at Tampa Bay.

"With Torii (Hunter) out there, I wanted to make sure I hit it
out of his reach,'' Giambi said of the Twins' All-Star center
fielder.

Overall, Giambi swung the bat well. He hit a hard line drive in
the third inning that would've been a hit had it not been for
slick-fielding first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz.

"I worked on cleaning up my bat path through the strike zone,
and I started to hit the ball better,'' Giambi said. "The guys
around me have been swinging the bat well, so it feels good for me
to get going a little bit too.''

Williams, who homered in Saturday night's 4-2 win, had a
ground-rule double in a three-run fifth inning. Hideki Matsui
entered as a pinch runner in the sixth and added an RBI ground-rule
double in the seventh that made it 8-1.

Lohse (2-2) lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs and 10
hits.

"The were all over my hard stuff early in the count,'' Lohse
said. "They're a good-hitting team and they showed it again
today.''

Mussina struck out eight -- including Jacque Jones three times
and Hunter twice --and improved to 4-0 for the second time in his
career. He was in trouble only once, when the Twins loaded the
bases with two outs in the fourth.

A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-out, bases-loaded single that scored
Chris Gomez. But Pierzynski overran first base and got caught
between Giambi and Soriano. Corey Koskie tried score from third,
but Jorge Posada tagged him out at the plate to end Minnesota's
threat.

"We know we can play with these guys, and we know we can beat
these guys,'' said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected in
the third inning for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire
Joe Brinkman. "We just haven't done it on the field yet. But it's
April, there's still a lot of baseball to play.''

Pierzynski scored on Mussina's wild pitch in the seventh to make
it 8-2.

New York's starting pitchers are 13-0, the longest winning
streak to begin a major league season since 1900.

"We're just all clicking right,'' Mussina said. "You don't
question it, you don't say anything too much about it. You go out
and go after it and try to keep it going.''

Williams added his solo shot with two outs in the third to make
it 4-0, and Posada singled off Johan Santana in the fifth to score
Johnson and Williams.

Game notes
Matsui, who had started the Yankees' previous 17 games, has
played in 1,268 straight games spanning his days with the Yomiuri
Giants of Japan's Central League. ... Mussina started 4-0 in 1992
with Baltimore. ... The Twins activated RHP Mike Fetters from the
DL and optioned RHP Juan Rincon to Triple-A Rochester. Fetters
worked one inning, allowing one hit.