Aggressive play at core of Apple revival
NEW YORK -- With apologies to the intestinally challenged Jason Giambi, who should be exempt from any extraneous mention of parasitic creatures, the worm has turned. Something was definitely rotten in The Apple last night, and it wasn't the New York Yankees.
Embarrassed by the Red Sox over two lost weekends in April, when they dropped six of seven and were swept in Yankee Stadium, the Bombers absorbed the shock of Johnny Damon's leadoff home run, then ran the Sox into the ground, 11-3, before a crowd of 55,231 that included vice president Dick Cheney, whose famous secret bunker, someone cracked, must connect directly to the No. 4 subway.
Security, as you can imagine, was tight, with mandatory searches for anyone roaming the corridors connecting the clubhouses. Had Michael Moore been on the premises with a camera, he undoubtedly would have accused the Secret Service of failing to find gloves in the Sox' possession. They certainly weren't in evidence on the field, where a ghastly defensive performance by the Sox led to six Yankee runs, although only four were registered in the books as unearned.
"After they manhandled us last time, we wondered how we would stack up," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Basically, we want to hold our own. We knew we had a good ballclub, but after the way we played them last time, we wondered how we would be."
Suffice it to say, the Yankees are no longer in wonderland. Playing what Torre called their most aggressive game of the season, the Yankees applied pressure on the opposition with speed and athleticism and hustle, elements that are as absent from the Sox Way as Theo and the Trio were missing last night.
The Yankees stole four bases, including a double steal by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, initiated by Jeter, directly preceding Hideki Matsui's two-run single off Derek Lowe in a three-run third inning. Leadoff man Kenny Lofton was on base four times, worrying Nomar Garciaparra and Kevin Millar into errors. Gary Sheffield and Tony Clark then delivered the body blows that put away the Sox with two-out home runs, Sheffield clearing the left-field wall with a three-run shot after Garciaparra's second error of the game kept the fourth inning alive, and Clark landing on the far-away center-field tarp with a two-run blast after Pokey Reese bobbled a certain double-play grounder in the fifth.
"It happens to every team," Jeter said charitably of the Sox breakdowns. "We made mistakes when we played them the first time around. Mistakes are part of the game; you just try to capitalize on them."
The Yankees now lead the Sox by 6 1/2 games in the AL East. Since April 25, the Bombers are 40-15, the best record in baseball. The Sox, meanwhile, are 30-27. That's a difference of 11 games.
"What surprised us," Torre said before the game, "is that they've played .500 ball since then. The way they left us here, we didn't envision that. But we knew we'd get straightened out."
Clark, who endured perhaps the most trying season of his professional career with the Sox in 2002, when he hit .207 with a career-low three home runs, wasn't in last night's starting lineup until after batting practice, when Giambi reported that he was still weak from a parasitic condition that has affected him for the last couple of weeks.
Giambi, who was sent to the hospital by Torre on Sunday, told reporters he couldn't remember the name of the parasite responsible for his condition, one that has lingered for almost two weeks and has him in a 13-for-65 funk. "I don't have a PhD and I'm not world-renowned," he said.
But Clark, who had been fighting a slump of his own (2 for his last 22), singled home the Yankees' first run in the second, then became the first player to hit one onto the tarp as both a visitor and as a Yankee with his first home run since May 26. "I believe I hit one off Mr. [Andy] Pettitte," he said, referring to the 1999 homer he hit on the tarp as a Detroit Tiger.
"I know he hasn't been feeling well," Clark said of Giambi. "I know he's been battling through some things. It's my job to give him a breather when he needs it. The situation tonight, I know another day or two might make a big difference."
Clark was a lot more generous toward the Sox than their fandom is likely to be in the aftermath of last night's rout.
"There's a lot of season left," he said. "Just as the ball bounced their way earlier in the year, the ball was bouncing our way tonight. Tomorrow it could go in the other direction. I just take some pride in the fact we played a good ballgame."
It was a game that made April seem like a distant memory.
"April doesn't matter anymore," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. "That was a long time ago. We've got to worry about tomorrow."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.