El Duque returned to the fold yesterday and was up to his usual tricks. He threw two kinds of curveballs, a slider, a change, as well as an eephus pitch (thrown twice) to go with his fastball. There has been some vague talk about the Yankees acquiring junkball specialist Jamie Moyer before the trading deadline, but with Hernandez on the squad, why bother? Stepping in for Mike Mussina, Duque was decent yesterday, allowing two runs off of five hits, and three walks in five innings of work (he also struck out five). While he isn't the answer to the pitching problems in the Bronx, physically, he looked great. Cool as ever, the Yankees' answer to Yul Brenner. It seemed like he was just pitching for the Yankees last week. Not much has changed.
Duque got some help from his defense early on. Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Cairo made a nice play in the third, and later on, Jorge Posada gunned down Carl Crawford for the second time in the series. Posada added a long solo home run into the Yankees' bullpen and an RBI single before he left with a sprained ankle (x-rays were negative). The game was close for a minute but the Yankees lumber was simply too much for the Rays. Six straight hits scored five runs in the third, and Godziller Matsui and Gary Sheffield added solo shots of their own. My girl's favorite Yankee Tony Clark hit two dingers as the Yankees rolled.
Sheffield's homer was memorable. Batting in the bottom of the eighth inning, Sheff was knocked to the ground on a 1-2 pitch from Danys Baez. Sheffield has so much torque in his body when he strides that he looked like a horse getting shot in an old western movie, going down. As he twisted back, his front leg collapsed under him making the brush-back look more serious than it actually was. Baez continued to challenge Sheffield who fouled off several fastballs. Then Baez left one out over the plate and Sheffield promptly deposited it over the left center field wall. Sheff admired his shot for a minute and then trotted around the bases.
The Rangers beat the Red Sox yesterday, so Boston ends the first half seven games behind New York. The Yankees go into the break with the best record in baseball.