Friday, June 08, 2007

Grand night for Alex, Joe

A-Rod's slam helps secure Torre's 2,000th win


Friday, June 8th 2007, 4:00 AM

CHICAGO - Joe Torre posted his 2,000th victory last night, but the number three was a much more significant one for the Yankees' manager.

That's because the Bombers' 10-3 win over the White Sox, nailed down by a ninth-inning grand slam from Alex Rodriguez, was their third consecutive victory, marking their first such streak in more than a month.

The win left the Yankees 10-1/2games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and 6-1/2 games behind the Tigers in the wild-card race. More importantly, it gave the Yankees (27-31) a series win in Chicago and victories in six of their last eight games.

"We haven't won three in a row in a long time," Torre said. "When you lose the first game of a series and win the next three, that's really huge."

Torre became the 10th manager in big-league history to record 2,000 wins, leaving him nine shy of Leo Durocher on baseball's all-time list.

"When I took this job 12 years ago, I was closer to losing 2,000 than I was to winning 2,000," said Torre, whose career record is 2,000-1,733 with the Mets, Braves, Cards and Yanks. "Without the opportunity here, I wouldn't have been close. I thank the Steinbrenner family for allowing me to do this. It's been a great ride."

"I'm happy for him; he deserves it," said Derek Jeter, who hugged Torre as they came off the field. "He's a Hall of Fame manager whenever he decides to call it quits. He's the best."

Alex Rodriguez celebrates after connecting for a grand slam in the ninth inning last night.

Bobby Abreu continued to tear it up in June, stroking a key two-run double to snap a 1-1 tie in the eighth.

"Bobby keeps validating what he's been all about here," Torre said. "He's fitting right in the No. 3 hole right now."

Mariano Rivera recorded the final five outs, picking up his seventh save.

He got some key help from Rodriguez, who turned a one-run lead into five with his ninth-inning grand slam, his 22nd homer.

Mike Mussina showed marked improvement from his last start, holding the White Sox to one run on four hits over six-plus innings. After a subpar outing in Boston, Mussina isn't ready to declare himself fixed after one start.

"The question is, can I go out and do it again?" Mussina said. "Doing it once in awhile here and there isn't going to do it. It's got to be every time. The next time, I'll go out and try to duplicate what I did tonight."

Mussina struck out four and did not issue a walk in the no-decision, but he was miffed that Torre pulled him in the seventh after just 79 pitches.

"I understand his thinking, but the seventh inning with 79 pitches?" Mussina said. "I know I haven't been pitching that well. You've got to earn it back, I guess."

Jose Contreras impressed early against his former team, limiting the Yankees to one run on three hits over the first seven innings. But the Yankees broke out in the eighth, scoring three times against Contreras and a pair of relievers.

Mussina looked like his vintage self, allowing just two hits through the first four innings. He had thrown just 46pitches, putting him in position to go deep into the game, something he has not done often this season.

Bobby Abreu (left) and Derek Jeter congratulate A-Rod after his slam.

With the Yankees holding onto a 1-0 lead in the seventh, Jim Thome led off with an infield single, as Josh Phelps and Robinson Cano both backed off the weak grounder for a second, thinking the other was going to make the play. Paul Konerko followed with a single, putting runners at first and third with no outs.

That's when Torre walked to the mound, calling in Mike Myers to face A.J. Pierzynski.

Pierzynski singled in Thome to tie the game. Scott Proctor came in from the bullpen and got the next three hitters out, stranding the go-ahead run at second base and taking the momentum back from the White Sox. The Yanks turned that momentum into a three-run eighth, taking the lead back.

Kyle Farnsworth gave back two of those runs before Rivera was summoned in to get the final five outs. He got out of the eighth with a one-run lead, but the Yankees scored six times in the ninth, four on A-Rod's slam, to put the game away and get Torre his milestone.

Having gone 6-4 on their 10-game road trip, the Yankees head home for nine interleague games against the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Mets.

"You want it to continue," Jeter said. "We played well in Boston and we played well here. Now we're going home, so we need to carry that into the home stand. That's our focus now."

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