Thursday, June 14, 2007

Yankees keep Moose loose

Three homers and seven Ks help drop deficit to 8 1/2


Thursday, June 14th 2007, 4:00 AM

The Yankees claim they're not doing much scoreboard-watching these days. It's hard to doubt them, since it's been so much fun for them to watch their own scoreboard on a nightly basis.

Last night was no exception, as the Bombers crushed the Diamondbacks, 7-2, extending their season-high winning streak to eight games.

"Seasons are usually full of streaks," Joe Torre said. "You need to have the good ones outnumber the bad ones. Right now, we're going to try to get the most out of this."

The Yankees broke out the big bats, bashing three home runs as part of a seven-run outburst against Livan Hernandez. Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada each went deep, giving the Stadium crowd plenty to cheer about on a chilly June night.

Jorge Posada strokes a solo homer in the second inning last night.

More important was the performance of Mike Mussina, who evened his record at 3-3 with 7-2/3 solid innings. Mussina won his first game in more than a month, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out seven without issuing a walk.

"It's a big win for us because of Mike," Torre said. "He was in command the whole game."

The Yankees (32-31) moved over the .500 mark for the first time since April 20, when they were 8-7. They also sliced another game off Boston's lead in the American League East, moving within 8-1/2 games of the first-place Red Sox, who lost to the Rockies. The Yanks also pulled within 4-1/2 games of the Tigers in the wild-card race.

Since trailing the Red Sox by 14-1/2 games on May 29, the Yankees have gone 11-2 to Boston's 5-8, picking up six games in the standings. Still, the party line remained the same following the win, as one Yankee after another preached the importance of worrying about their own record instead of the distance between them and the rival Bosox.

"I'm not there yet," Torre said. "I'm not saying we don't notice that Boston loses, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to continue to nag these guys about our record. Just go out there, try to win every game and see how far we can take this thing right now."

Bobby Abreu congratulates Alex Rodriguez after A-Rod hit his majors-best 25th homer.

"The numbers are shrinking, but it's been 10 days that we've done all of this," Mussina said. "If you don't pay attention to what you're doing, if you take things for granted, the next 10 days can be the exact opposite."

With Arizona leading 1-0 in the second, Posada tied it up with a blast to right field, his eighth of the season.

A-Rod snapped the tie an inning later, crushing a colossal two-run homer to left field. The ball hit off the facing of the upper deck, a spot rarely reached in the Bronx. It was A-Rod's 25th homer of the year, tops in the majors.

"I didn't see where it landed, but I knew I hit it well," Rodriguez said. "It felt good off the bat."

"You never have to look twice," Torre said. "He killed that ball."

A-Rod added to the lead with an RBI single in the fourth, as he continued to make June look like a carbon copy of his incredible April. Rodriguez is hitting .393 (11-for-28) with five homers and 19 RBI during the Yankees' winning streak, but this month has been more satisfying for the third baseman because his team is surging.

"It felt good to get out to a good start, personally, but it felt terrible that we weren't winning," Rodriguez said of April. "This is night and day. There are so many guys playing at a high level; I'm just one of those guys."

Hideki Matsui connects for a three-run blast in the fourth inning.

Matsui tacked on a three-run shot in the fourth, giving Mussina a 7-1 lead and plenty of breathing room. Mussina sat down 13 of 14 D-Backs from the second through the sixth until Conor Jackson hit a solo shot to make it a 7-2 game.

Unlike Mussina's last outing, when Torre yanked him after 79 pitches in the seventh when he got into some trouble, the righty breezed through a 1-2-3 seventh with his comfortable lead, then came back out for the eighth for the first time this season.

Mussina got the first two hitters in the eighth, but Eric Byrnes singled on his 101st pitch, bringing Torre out of the dugout. Torre got to the mound, but before taking the ball, he told Mussina, "I got you a little tired this time." Mussina walked to the dugout as the 53,891 saluted him with a standing ovation.

"It's going in the right direction," Mussina said. "You want to go out and do it every time."

The same can be said for the Yankees, who will try to complete their second straight series sweep today when they send Andy Pettitte to the mound against Doug Davis.

"We're looking forward to hopefully keeping this feeling we have," Torre said. "We have a lot of confidence right now."

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