<
>

Yankees sweep Royals, win fourth straight

NEW YORK (AP) -- Randy Johnson came out because he stiffened up a
bit -- or maybe he was just a little tired. Depends who you listen
to. One thing is certain, though, the New York Yankees had fun
facing Kansas City pitching.

Johnson won despite lasting only five innings, and New York got
home runs from Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon to
polish off a three-game sweep of the Royals with a 9-3 victory
Thursday.

"We all knew it was only a matter of time before the offense
started to come around," Giambi said. "I think guys finally
started to relax a little bit. Now we're coming up with that big
hit, driving in that big run."

The Yankees built a 4-0 lead for Johnson, pulled after 87
pitches. New York manager Joe Torre said the 42-year-old lefty got
a little stiff, but didn't think there was any "structural"
problem.

"I think this is just a freak thing," Torre said.

Johnson (2-1) first said he simply tired a bit, then agreed the
trouble could be called stiffness in his right shoulder. Pitching
coach Ron Guidry described it as just "general tiredness."

"Everything's fine. Everything's good," said Johnson, who told
Guidry he was done after the top of the fifth. "It's early in the
year.

"Just take a little breather and let the bullpen come in. They
did a nice job," Johnson added. "I don't need to go out there
every time and pitch seven, eight innings."

He and Torre both said they expect Johnson to make his next
start. General manager Brian Cashman also said he wasn't concerned.

On the mound, the Big Unit looked sharp. He has 16 strikeouts
and no walks in three starts. He had never gone two starts into a
season without walking a batter.

Bernie Williams, who finished with three hits, and Robinson Cano
each had an RBI single off Denny Bautista (0-1) for the Yankees,
who have won 14 straight home games against Kansas City -- a streak
that dates to August 2002.

The loss matched the Royals' record for consecutive defeats in
an opposing ballpark, set at Detroit's Tiger Stadium from August
1987 to May 1990.

"This is a good time to get out of here," manager Buddy Bell
said.

Featuring a biting slider, Johnson cruised into the fifth with a
four-run lead. He had allowed only one hit and faced one more than
the minimum.

But with two outs, the Royals strung together three hits. Shane
Costa poked an 0-2 pitch to left-center for an RBI single.

Johnson retired Tony Graffanino to end the inning and never came
out for the sixth. Scott Proctor worked 1 1-3 scoreless innings,
and Mike Myers fanned Costa with two on to end the seventh.

Graffanino homered against Tanyon Sturtze leading off the
eighth, cutting it to 4-2.

Alex Rodriguez doubled leading off the bottom half, and Giambi's
two-run shot to center off Jimmy Gobble made it 6-2.

Damon added a three-run drive into the right-field upper deck,
his first homer with the Yankees, and came out for a curtain call
for the crowd of 54,381. He had four RBI.

Every New York starter had a hit for the second consecutive day.
The Yankees have scored 40 runs in winning four straight overall.

Kansas City dropped its fourth in a row.

Johnson pitched to Kelly Stinnett, who used to catch the
left-hander in Arizona as well. Torre said before the game he might
stick with that combination if it works well.

John Flaherty was Johnson's personal catcher last season, and
Torre acknowledged that Johnson and regular starter Jorge Posada
didn't work well together -- perhaps because of their different
personalities, the manager said.

But Torre and Posada said Thursday there was no issue or problem
between the star pitcher and catcher.

Sheffield began to refocus Wednesday on using the entire field,
and he did a good job of that again in the first inning Thursday
with a home run to right-center. It was his second homer in two
days and the 452nd of his career, tying Carl Yastrzemski for 27th
on baseball's career list.

The Yankees opened the second with four straight singles and
pushed the lead to 4-0. Williams had his 1,200th RBI, seventh on
the club's career list behind six Hall of Famers.

"I messed up a couple of pitches in the second inning, but I
felt pretty good," Bautista said. "They got lucky there. A couple
of groundballs and a couple of bloopers, too, but that's the
game."

Game notes
Kansas City began the day with a 7.23 ERA, worst in the
majors by more than half a run. ... Giambi has reached base safely
in 14 of his past 18 plate appearances. ... The Yankees have won 22
of 24 against Kansas City at home since the start of the 2000
season. ... Royals OF David DeJesus missed his fifth consecutive
game with tightness in his left hamstring.