NEW YORK (AP) -- Randy Johnson glared at Johnny Damon, sending an
early message. The Big Unit muttered when plate umpire Derryl
Cousins didn't give him calls and tapped his glove on his chest
Pumping fastballs at up to 99 mph and sliders that darted down,
he put together his best performance of the season, and did it
against the Red Sox with the Yankees desperately needing a win to
stay in contention in the AL East.
Johnson gave up one hit -- a soft single at that -- in stifling
Boston over seven innings. Jason Giambi homered off Tim Wakefield
in the first on a curveball that just stayed fair, and Tom Gordon
and Mariano Rivera staved off the Red Sox in a 1-0 victory Sunday.
"That's the pitcher that everybody expected, and that's the
pitcher that I'd expected," said Johnson, who improved to 4-0
against the Red Sox this season.
After the teams exchanged sloppy wins -- 8-4 by New York on
Friday and 9-2 by Boston on Saturday -- they played nine crisp and
tense innings. Wakefield pitched a three-hitter, and the Yankees
allowed just three hits. New York had not beaten the Red Sox 1-0 on
a homer since Roy White connected off Jose Santiago on May 11,
1968, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Seeking its eighth straight AL East title, New York moved within
three games of the first-place Red Sox with three weeks left. The
Yankees remained 1½ games behind Cleveland in the wild-card race.
"The big thing was not coming in here and getting swept,"
Boston's Doug Mirabelli said.
Do the Yankees have a shot to overtake the Red Sox?
"Sure we have," owner George Steinbrenner said.
Pitching one day after his 42nd birthday and on the fourth
anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Johnson (14-8) struck
out eight and walked two on an afternoon filled with brilliant
Boston's only hit off the 6-foot-10 left-hander was by Kevin
Youkilis, who led off the fourth by lofting a 1-2 pitch into short
The Big Unit regularly hit 96-97 mph, according to the
center-field scoreboard, which registered a 99 mph pitch to Damon
in the third. He got Manny Ramirez to fly to center on a 98 mph
fastball in the seventh, throwing so hard to the cleanup hitter
that he developed a cramp in his left calf. He ended the inning by
striking out Kevin Millar with his 100th pitch.
In his first season with the Yankees, Johnson's ERA is 3.91.
He's tinkered with mechanics, and Alex Rodriguez said he may have
been tipping pitches earlier this year.
"The stuff's there, obviously," Johnson said. "It's been
there all year. It's been in hibernation."
On Saturday, Yankees manager Joe Torre had told Johnson: "We
"This game, above any other game, I don't think he has to
answer any more questions about handling this situation ever
again," Torre said. "I thought today was very significant for
him. This the most pressure you could be asked to pitch under when
everybody expects you to win, you get one run and pitch up to those
standards. So I think he showed people today that, yeah, this is a
game `This is why they got you,' and didn't leak a bit."
Tony Graffanino singled past a diving Rodriguez at third base
leading off the eighth against Gordon, and Mirabelli hit an infield
popup. Gordon didn't see it off the bat and the ball landed on the
Bill Mueller flied out and Boston sent David Ortiz, held out of
the starting lineup against Johnson, up to pinch hit. Rivera
relieved and shattered Ortiz's bat on a checked swing before
walking him, giving the Red Sox their first runner on second.
Rivera needed 10 pitches to retire Damon, who hit a broken-bat
grounder to first.
"He breaks a lot of my at-bats," Damon said. "Maybe I ought
to send him a bill."
Rivera gloved Edgar Renteria's liner leading off the ninth, but
walked Ramirez on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and allowed a single to
Millar that put runners on the corners.
John Olerud, part of the Yankees team that wasted a 3-0 lead to
Boston in last year's AL championship series, pinch hit and struck
out, giving Rivera his 37th save in 41 chances.
"The last pitch was over the plate but was up and out of the
strike zone," Olerud said.
Wakefield (15-11) struck out a career-high 12 in the
knuckleballer's third complete game this season. Giambi had been
hitless in 18 straight at-bats against Wakefield before he fouled
off a pair of 1-2 pitches and followed with his 29th homer, his
second in two days.
"I just saw it pop out of his hand, and I said I can put this
one in play," Giambi said.
"I couldn't believe he hit it," Wakefield said. "It was a
pretty good pitch."
It wasn't clear that the ball would stay fair until it went over
the wall, just next to the screen attached to foul pole. The other
hits off Wakefield were Bubba Crosby's third-inning triple and
Cano's sixth-inning double.
"Today it did everything. It went up, it went down, it went
left it went right," Rodriguez said of the knuckler. "He had us
talking to each other."
Now the Yankees head to Tampa Bay to play the Devil Rays, who
have beaten New York 11 times in 16 games. This year, the Yankees
are doing the chasing, not the Red Sox.
"It almost feels like we're in their shoes," Rodriguez said.
Rivera's 32 saves against Boston are the most by a pitcher
against the Red Sox, according to Elias. ... Boston matched its
season low for hits and lost 1-0 for the first time since Aug. 11,
2003, against Oakland and Tim Hudson.