Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Yanks begin season with losing record

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL After an 8-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, the highest paid team in baseball are only 4-6 at the start of the season


It was the team of Matt Nokes and Mel Hall, with a rookie center fielder named Bernie Williams and just one All-Star, pitcher Scott Sanderson. They were the 1991 Yankees, losers of 91 games, a distant 20 games out of first.

If these Yankees end up like that, they will have far worse problems than Gary Sheffield's fan relations. But after Friday's 8-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, the Yankees are 4-6 for the season. It is the first time since 1991 that they have had a losing record through 10 games.

"It's tough after 10 games to start saying, `Oh my God. What's going on?'" Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "This is a long season. It's just a matter of getting things going and going on a little bit of a run. If I saw a lack of effort out there, that's something we'd address. But that's not the case."

On the night after Sheffield's confrontation with a fan at Fenway Park, they put up little fight against a punchy opponent. The Yankees have lost six of their past eight games, including three of four to the Orioles, whose plan may be taking shape.

The Orioles hoped to bludgeon teams with hitters like Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa. To compete, they needed their young pitchers to improve. Bruce Chen is a veteran of eight teams, already a known commodity at 27. But he was tricky enough to beat the Yankees for the first time in his career, holding them to four singles and a walk for his second career complete game.

"All the people in Panama, they watch the Yankees," said Chen, who lives in Panama City. "For me to do the things that I did today against a very good team like them, it means a lot to me."

Carl Pavano started for the Yankees for the first time since facing Baltimore last Sunday, when he left after taking a liner to the head. He matched Chen for a while but fell apart in the sixth, allowing back-to-back homers to Tejada and Sosa. It was Sosa's first at Camden Yards after 575 elsewhere.

Pavano lasted five and two-thirds innings, allowing seven runs (three earned) on seven hits and two walks. He and Felix Rodriguez gave up seven runs in the sixth, five coming after an error by second baseman Rey Sanchez and two outs. The Yankees have allowed 16 unearned runs in their first 10 games, but Pavano took the blame this time.

"The consistency is just not there," said Pavano, who is 0-2 in three starts. "I expect to win ballgames. I'm going to have to do a better job of that."

For Sheffield, trouble struck in the first inning on another triple to the right-field wall, like the one Boston's Jason Varitek hit Thursday night that started the incident between Sheffield and the fan. After Melvin Mora's one-out double to left, Tejada sent a pitch to the fence in right. Sheffield backtracked awkwardly and could not haul it in. Mora scored, but Pavano stranded Tejada at third.

Torre had redesigned his lineup because of Chen, who had pitched well at Yankee Stadium last week. He flipped Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui, moving Rodriguez to cleanup and Matsui to fifth. Williams was elevated to second from ninth.

Nothing worked. Chen handcuffed the Yankees, retiring the side in five of the first six innings. The only exception was the third, when he walked Tino Martinez with one out. Sanchez singled to short, where Tejada made a nifty stop in the hole but could not force Martinez at second.

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