NEW YORK (AP) -- Randy Johnson threw his hands up in disgust
after Jose Hernandez's easy liner dropped in for a single in the
sixth inning. It was the Cleveland Indians' ninth hit of the
afternoon and the Big Unit was frustrated. Nothing he tried seemed
to be working.
Johnson struggled through six unremarkable innings, but a
Yankees' offense led by Jason Giambi and Ruben Sierra picked him up
and impressed their demanding boss with a 9-4 victory over
Cleveland on Sunday.
"It was just a, 'This is how the day is going,' gesture," said
catcher John Flaherty, who made a similar motion with his hands.
Riding the elevator after the victory, Yankees owner George
Steinbrenner gave a hint of a smile when asked if his team is
finally living up to his expectations.
"Yes, the way we are playing now," he said.
Giambi hit a two-run homer, and Sierra drove in two runs with a
bases-loaded single to lift the Yankees to their seventh win in
eight games. The third-place Yankees moved within 2½ games of AL
East-leading Boston -- the closest they've been to first since April
15, when they were 4-6.
The Yankees improved to a season-high six games over .500 for
the third time behind Giambi's 10th homer of the season -- fifth in
six games -- Gary Sheffield's late three-run homer, and Cleveland
starter Jake Westbrook's wildness.
"It was important -- after losing yesterday to come back and
win," manager Joe Torre said. "This is something we have not been
able to do."
The teams return from the All-Star break with four games against
their respective division leaders, beginning Thursday. The Indians
host the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox, and the Yankees head
to Fenway Park to play the Red Sox.
"This is what we want," Sheffield said. "The way we're
playing right now, you want to play the first-place team and take
back the division."
Mariano Rivera earned his first two-inning save since July 11,
2003, at Toronto. It was his 20th straight save after blowing his
first two chances this year.
Steinbrenner was happy with Giambi's turnaround -- the first
baseman raised his average to .278 after batting just .195 in
mid-May -- but issued a challenge.
"He just has to keep it going," Steinbrenner said.
In the bottom half, the Yankees scored three times with two
outs. After retiring the first two batters, Westbrook (6-11) walked
Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez. Matsui followed with an RBI double,
and Giambi was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Sierra, a switch-hitter batting left-handed, lined a 2-2 pitch
to the opposite field to drive in two runs and make it 6-3.
"In the fifth inning I set it up for them again with those
back-to-back walks," Westbrook said. "I wasn't very good in
certain situations and I basically lost the game. If I cut down the
walks, the game's a lot different. You definitely can't get the job
done walking five guys."
Hafner's third RBI of the game, a one-out single in the seventh
off Wayne Franklin made it 6-4. Sheffield hit his 17th of the
season off Bob Howry in the eighth to close out the scoring.
Johnson allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in each of the
first five innings. But he used seven strikeouts, two nice plays
from third baseman Rodriguez and a pair of runners caught stealing
by catcher Flaherty to limit the Indians.
In the first and third innings with the infield playing in,
Rodriguez snared hard-hit, one-out grounders by Victor Martinez to
hold the runner at third.
Flaherty bailed Johnson out in the fourth. With runners on first
and second with none out, Flaherty threw out Hernandez at third
after Peralta struck out. Flaherty, who has become Johnson's
personal catcher, then threw out Ronnie Belliard trying to swipe
second to end the inning.
Johnson was done after six innings, having thrown 109 pitches.
He allowed three runs and nine hits, and struck out eight while
"I gave up a lot of hits, but not a lot of runs," Johnson
said. "They're a real aggressive team, a lot like Texas but with a
little less power. I kind of kept the damage to a minimum."
Rookie Melky Cabrera had trouble with another ball hit to
straightaway center field -- he misplayed two Saturday -- and it led
to Cleveland's first run. One out after Sizemore doubled on the
game's first pitch, Hafner hit a liner to center that Cabrera got a
late jump on. The ball nicked off his outstretched glove and rolled
toward the wall as Sizemore scored.
Boone doubled in a run in the second. In the bottom half,
Flaherty had a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to bring the
Yankees to 2-1.
The crowd of 54,256 was the Yankees ninth straight sellout
and 20th this season. ... Boone was 8-for-16 against his former
team in the four-game series. ... Matsui had three hits and scored