5-9-07 - The New York Yankees began to turn their season around as soon as they started playing Texas.
Derek Jeter drove in three runs, Mike Mussina pitched three-hit ball for six innings and New York extended its domination of the Rangers with a 6-2 victory Wednesday night.
Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui each hit an RBI double in a four-run first off Robinson Tejeda, helping the Yankees improve to 18-2 against Texas since July 20, 2005 -- including 5-0 the past two weeks. New York (16-16) also reached .500 for the first time since dropping to 8-8 with a loss at Boston on April 21.
"Now we start thinking about five games over," manager Joe Torre said.
Boosted by a string of solid starts at last, the Yankees are 8-3 overall following a seven-game losing streak.
"Once we start winning ballgames, it gets kind of contagious," Mussina said. "We're playing like we should have been playing from the beginning."
Even backup catcher Wil Nieves got in on the fun. With starter Jorge Posada getting a rest before a day game Thursday, Nieves singled in the sixth for his first major league hit in 35 at-bats since Sept. 29, 2002, with San Diego against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Nieves tried to stretch it into a double but was thrown out easily by Brad Wilkerson. Nieves got a warm hand from the crowd of 47,930 as he trotted off the field -- and plenty of good-natured ribbing in the dugout.
"I got the ball," Nieves said. "I got a little bit too excited, tried to go to second, got thrown out. Jeter and (Robinson) Cano were killing me. They said, `Did you see the outfielder catching the ball before you reached first base?' I said, `No."'
All-Star shortstop Michael Young of the Rangers left in the fifth with tightness in his right hamstring and it sounds as though he won't start Thursday.
"This infield is really wet. Coming out of the box on a groundball yesterday, I felt a little snag," Young said. "It's sore, but I'll be fine. I'll be ready to pinch-hit."
Young hasn't missed a game since 2005.
"I care about being durable. If I cared about the streak, I'm a long way from making history," he said.
A fan jumped out of the left-field seats in the ninth and ran toward Matsui, attempting to give the left fielder a high-five. Matsui barely budged and simply nudged aside the fan, who was tackled by security near the mound.
"I wasn't really concerned. I figured he was probably drunk or something," Matsui said through a translator. "I didn't feel like he was going to attack me or anything."
Predictably, another fan soon wound up on the field behind home plate and was quickly handcuffed.
Making his second start since missing three weeks with a strained left hamstring, Mussina (2-1) beat Tejeda for the second time in six days. The right-hander tied Yankees Hall of Famer Herb Pennock for 50th place on the career list with 241 wins -- two behind Juan Marichal.
Mixing speeds and looking healthy, Mussina threw 59 of his 85 pitches for strikes. He allowed two runs, one walk and struck out two.
"For the first two games out there I feel pretty good about it," Mussina said.
He retired his first six batters before Wilkerson hit his fourth home run. Mussina later set down 11 in a row before his final hitter, Mark Teixeira, singled to right and was thrown out by Abreu trying to stretch it into a double.
Three relievers combined to work a scoreless seventh. Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera finished a strong effort by New York's heavily used bullpen.
Tejeda (3-3) made his scheduled start -- his first at Yankee Stadium -- despite feeling soreness in his forearm following his previous outing. New York tagged him for four hits in a 36-pitch first inning. His first five batters reached base.
"Every time I threw the ball it kind of bothered me a little bit," said Tejeda, adding that he didn't have much control of his fastball. "My elbow and my shoulder have been bothering me the last couple of days."
Batting second for the first time since August 2000 with Philadelphia, Abreu hit a double that put New York in front. Jeter followed with an RBI single. After Alex Rodriguez walked, Matsui doubled to drive in a run and Cano made it 4-0 with an RBI groundout.
Nelson Cruz followed Wilkerson's homer with a double in the third and Chris Stewart walked. But Mussina limited the damage, allowing only Young's RBI groundout.
Jeter, who batted third for the first time this season, chased Tejeda with a two-run single that made it 6-2 with two outs in the fourth. Jeter is 13-for-27 (.481) with runners in scoring position. He drove in two runs in an 8-2 victory Tuesday night.