New York Yankees rookie pitcher Wang Chien-ming (
Randy Johnson, 0-2 on the trip despite improving stuff, will face Mark Mulder tomorrow. Carl Pavano, who allowed only two runs in six innings in a loss Tuesday, will oppose the unbeaten Matt Morris (7-0) tomorrow.
Ten days into their 13-day, four-city road trip that has been anything but delightful, the Yankees rested Thursday in St. Louis, Missouri.
With the impatience of the principal owner George Steinbrenner looming over them, the Yankees ended a week and a half of offensive ineptitude Wednesday night with a 12-3 rout of Milwaukee that left players, coaches and even manager Joe Torre stepping more lively.
Torre has been the even-handed face of optimism in a stretch that saw the Yankees lose 9 of 10 games and crumble nightly with men in scoring position. After back-to-back losses to the Red Sox at home, the Yankees suffered a humiliating sweep in Kansas City to open the trip, then lost the next two series to fall back below .500.
Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez both termed the team's play "embarrassing," and on Wednesday morning Steinbrenner said that "it's up to Torre" to reverse the team's fortunes.
After the game on Wednesday night, Torre admitted that the accumulating frustration of losing led to his blowup with the first-base umpire Larry Vanover, who had just ejected Martinez for complaining about a checked-swing call on Brady Clark. Martinez said he did not use any "bad words," but turned to Vanover and raised his arms in protest. Torre, after stating his case, pursued Vanover.
"I got too hot," Torre said. "I've got to control myself better than that."
Still, the team's sense of relief after winning for only the second time in nine games on the trip was palpable. The clubhouse, deadly quiet the previous two nights, reverberated with jacked-up sound from the wide-screen television showing the Minnesota-Arizona game. Smiles were everywhere, and players passed the credit around.
Alex Rodriguez, after homering twice to become, at 29, the youngest player in major-league history to reach 400, perhaps stretched the truth in his intent to flatter. Rodriguez said Ruben Sierra's big night -- he had three hits batting fifth behind Rodriguez -- provided lineup protection for him. "He's swinging the bat very well, and because of that I got better pitches to hit," Rodriguez said.
The notion of anyone choosing to pitch to Rodriguez, a likely Hall of Famer in the prime of his career, instead of Sierra, a 39-year-old bench player, is curious, but it was that kind of night.
"The other game we won on this trip was a good game," Torre said. "But this was great, because we had guys swinging the bats. That was the missing ingredient."
In St. Louis, where the defending National League champion Cardinals enjoy the league's best record with a lineup loaded with pop, even without Scott Rolen (out with a sprained left shoulder). The 38-21 Cardinals are off to their best start since 1944, led by Albert Pujols, who is among the league leaders in home runs (14), runs batted in (47) and batting (.330).
"It's still going to be based on how we pitch," Torre said.