The Yankees struggled against Adam Loewen again yesterday afternoon. Fortunately the Orioles had even more trouble with Chien-Ming Wang, who allowed just one seventh-inning run in 7 1/3 innings on his way to his major-league leading 17th win.
For their part, the Yanks got two off Loewen in the fifth when Kevin Thompson drew a one-out walk, Nick Green singled, Johnny Damon singled Thompson home, and Melky Cabrera plated Green with a sac fly. Loewen was pulled after throwing 113 pitches over seven innings and the Yanks picked up an insurance run against displaced starter Rodrigo Lopez when Damon lead off with a double, Melky Cabrera bunted him over, and Derek Jeter singled him home.
That third run proved to be the difference as, with Mariano Rivera still on the shelf, Joe Torre turned to Kyle Farnsworth to protect a two-run lead in the ninth. Farnsworth did so by striking out Jay Gibbons, giving up a solo home run to Kevin Millar on a jock-high first-pitch fastball down the middle, then getting the final two outs on six pitches. Yanks win, 3-2.
The absence of Rivera highlights the far more significant story for the Yankees right now, which is the need for the team to get healthy. There's no real time table for Rivera's return from a muscle strain in his right forearm, though he plans to throw on flat ground today, just as he did on Friday, and Joe Torre claims he's improving. Jason Giambi received yet another cortisone shot in his left wrist yesterday and won't play until the Yankees return to the Bronx on Tuesday. Mike Mussina, who would be on regular rest today, has also been pushed back to Tuesday due to right shoulder soreness, this following his first start after being activated from the DL due to a groin pull. Alex Rodriguez, meanwhile, has come down with a stomach flu for the second time in Baltimore this season, and everyone else just needs some rest.
The good news is that the Yankees' lead in the East continues to grow as the Red Sox managed to lose a 12-inning game to the Royals by a score of 10-4 last night, dropping to ten games back. The Yankees win over the O's, meanwhile, officially eliminated Baltimore from the division race. Oh, and Matsui went 1 for 3 with a double and a pair of walks in the Thunder's 4-3 loss to Portland.
Today the Yanks send Jaret Wright to the mound in Mussina's place while the O's counter with September call-up Hayden Penn. Wright hasn't pitched at all since hurling 6 1/3 strong innings against the Tigers on August 30th. The 21-year-old Penn, meanwhile, was excellent in triple-A this year, but didn't make it out of the first inning against Oakland a week ago in his only major league appearance this year. Last year he came up straight from double-A to make eight starts for the O's, four of them during interleague, only to walk more than he struck out and post a 6.34 ERA.