The Yankees hit four home runs this afternoon to overcome a rocky fifth inning from Mike Mussina and avoid being swept by the Indians in the finale of what proved to be a disappointing 4-5 homestand. Mussina allowed just one baserunner through the first four innings, but handed a 3-0 lead in the fifth thanks to home runs by Johnny Damon (a 330-foot pop fly to right field) and Jason Giambi (a two-run shot that sailed over the right field foul pole) in the bottom of the fourth, Moose gave it all back.
That inning started ominously when Mussina hit Ben Francisco in the back with a 2-2 pitch. Franklin Gutierrez followed with a single that dropped in front of Bobby Abreu and pushed Francisco to third. After a Ryan Garko pop out, Casey Blake hit a shot to deep right that Bobby Abreu was unable to catch up to at the wall (prompting Pete Abraham to ask, "Does Bobby Abreu wear one of those invisible collars that shocks him when he gets too close the wall?"). The ball hit the warning track, then the wall, and popped up in the air as Abreu spun around looking for it and Francisco trotted home. Finding the ball to his right, Abreu fired in to relay man Robinson Cano, who threw home to try to get Gutierrez attempting to score from first, but Cano's throw, which was in plenty of time, was low and skipped past Jose Molina allowing Gutierrez to score and Blake, who now has 22 RBIs on just 21 hits, to move to third. A subsequent single by Kelly Shoppach scored Blake, knotting the game at 3-3.
Cano instantly made up for his bad throw by leading off the bottom of the inning with a double. Wilson Betemit followed with a hard drive into the gap in left. Francisco tracked it down for the first out, but with his momentum heading back and toward center, Cano was able to tag and move to third with ease. With the go-ahead run on third and one out, Jose Molina hit a grounder to short that allowed Jhonny Peralta to freeze Cano in his tracks, but Johnny Damon picked Molina up with an RBI double that gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish.
In the seventh, Cano drove Indians' starter Paul Byrd from the game with a solo homer and Wilson Betemit greeted reliever Masa Kobayashi with a bomb over the 408 sign in dead center. Meanwhile, Ross Ohlendorf pitched two shutout innings allowing only a single. It was just the third time all year, Ohlendorf, who has been primarly used as a long reliever, pitched in a game the Yankees eventually won, and just the first time all year he pitched in a game the Yankees won by less than six runs. That was important, because the Yankees hope to eventually move Ohlendorf into a setup role.
Ohlendorf was followed by Joba Chamberlain, who faced two of the three batters he faced in his blown save on Tuesday night, Grady Sizemore, who walked to start Tuesday's rally, and David Dellucci, who homered to finish it. Rather than throwing lots of curve balls and getting beat on a fastball, as he did on Tuesday, Chamberlain threw lots of fastballs and struck out Dellucci on a slider to end a 1-2-3 frame. Mariano Rivera pitched around a double to pick up his ninth save and nail down the 6-3 Yankee win.
The Yankees now travel to Detroit to start a seven-game road trip against the Tigers and Rays before coming back home to face the Mets. Kei Igawa will make his 2008 Yankee debut tomorrow, but try not to think about that until you have to.
More encouragingly, Alex Rodriguez was taking grounders at third and cuts in the cage before today's game, and hitting some genuine blasts in batting practice. The Yankees say Rodriguez will get another MRI before being cleared for some rehab games, and all that (the MRI and the rehab games) will have to happen before he comes off the DL. Still, barring any setbacks, Rodriguez should be activated next week.