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Big Unit pitches five-hitter as Yankees top Pirates

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson opened the game by striking out Freddy Sanchez on three pitches. Then he struck out Matt Lawton on three pitches.

"Every time he goes out there and shows that kind of stuff he showed early on, everybody thinks a no-hitter," Yankees manager Joe Torre.

While he didn't throw a no-hitter, Johnson pitched his finest game with the Yankees. He reached double digits in strikeouts for the first time this year and threw a five-hitter Thursday night, leading New York to a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed a three-game sweep.

"He was great!" Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said.

With perhaps his sharpest slider of the season, Johnson threw his first 13 pitches for strikes and 20 of his opening 21. He went to 0-2 counts on 10 of his first 18 batters and finished with 11 strikeouts and no walks. He even got Sanchez to swing at a slider that hit him in him on his back knee.

"Most of you guys have written my eulogy last month," Johnson told reporters. "I'm not done. I've got a lot of fire in me."

Johnson (7-5) won consecutive starts for only the second time this year, lowered his ERA to 3.51 and had his 205th double-digit strikeout game, 10 shy of Nolan Ryan's record. He got his 253rd win, tying Carl Hubbell for 40th on the career list.

"At times I felt really good with my mechanics in April. In May, I felt good at times," Johnson said. "Things just get blown out of proportion here. You give up a couple of runs and you lose 3-1 or something, the world's coming to an end."

Johnson was more animated on the mound than he had been previously this season.

"We're starting to see some of the staredowns," catcher John Flaherty said. "He made some gestures, and I just wanted to make sure they weren't directed at me. He said they were directed at himself."

Michael Restovich's opposite-field homer in the fourth just went over the right-field wall and ended Johnson's scoreless streak at 10 innings. He pitched his third complete game of the year, his first on the winning side.

"I got lucky with my home run," Restovich said. "Sometimes, you just have to get the barrel out there and velocity will take care of the rest."

Johnson lost his previous three starts to the Pirates, getting a total of three runs of support. For the second consecutive start, he threw to Flaherty instead of regular starter Jorge Posada, and Torre said Flaherty also will catch Johnson's next start.

"I'm uncomfortable with it, to tell you the truth, because I think I'm just fortunate enough to be back there the last two starts when he found something," said Flaherty, who attributed the effectiveness of Johnson's slider to a higher arm angle.

At 33-32, the Yankees are over .500 for the first time since they were 28-27 before losing at Minnesota on June 5.

"We just have to make up for the lost time now," Torre said. "We can't be proud of ourselves yet."

Hideki Matsui hit a two-run homer in the first off Oliver Perez (5-5), and New York made it 4-0 in the second when Jason Giambi hit a long RBI double and scored on Robinson Cano's single. Gary Sheffield added a bloop, two-run double in the fourth that bounced just in front of a sliding Restovich in left.

Perez, who was 4-0 in his previous five starts, gave up six runs, seven hits and five walks -- one intentional -- in five innings. Pittsburgh lost its fourth straight overall and its ninth in a row at AL ballparks, dropping to 17-39 on the road in interleague play.

"I didn't think Oli would come out and elevate the ball the way he did," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He just didn't have it tonight."

Notes

  • Torre said RHP Kevin Brown, who left Wednesday's game with back spasms, is doubtful for his next scheduled start.
  • Steinbrenner spent part of the game sitting with former President Clinton, who received a $1 million check from the team for tsunami relief. "He's a great baseball fan, a great Yankees fan, a great guy." Steinbrenner also gave Torre an endorsement: "I haven't talked to him. He's doing too good a job. I don't want to disturb him."
  • The game took 2 hours, 19 minutes. Johnson's loss to the Pirates last Aug. 27 lasted just 1:47.
  • Giambi, whose 10th-inning, two-run homer won Wednesday night's game, was 1-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch.
  • Sheffield was in a 4-for-35 slide before the double.
  • With Restovich's homer, the Pirates remained the only major league team with an extra-base hit in every game this season.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Hideki Matsui hits a two-run homer in the second to push the lead to 4-0.  (AP)
Hideki Matsui hits a two-run homer in the second to push the lead to 4-0. (AP)

Players of the Game
New York

H. Matsui
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
New York

R. Johnson
IP 9.0
H 5
ER 1
BB 0
K 11
 

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Pittsburgh Pirates
Freddy Sanchez, 3B4000011 .278
Matt Lawton, RF4000022 .271
Jason Bay, CF4010001 .302
Ryan Doumit, DH4000022 .286
Michael Restovich, LF4121020 .265
Daryle Ward, 1B4010021 .281
Jose Castillo, 2B3000011 .268
Humberto Cota, C3000001 .246
Jack Wilson, SS3010010 .233
Totals331510119 
Batting
HR - Michael Restovich (3, R. Johnson)
RBI - Michael Restovich (6)
2-OUT RBI - Michael Restovich (4)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Castillo-J. Wilson-Ward
E - Michael Restovich (1, misplayed grounder)
Pittsburgh Pirates
Oliver Perez (L,5-5) 5766551 6.22
Ryan Vogelsong 1000000 5.22
John Grabow 1000000 2.41
Salomon Torres 1200000 2.60
IBB - Rodriguez by Oliver Perez
HBP - Giambi (by Oliver Perez)
Pitches-Strikes - Oliver Perez 108-60, Ryan Vogelsong 9-6, John Grabow 8-6, Salomon Torres 15-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Oliver Perez 3-7, Ryan Vogelsong 1-2, Salomon Torres 2-0
Batters Faced - Oliver Perez 28, Ryan Vogelsong 3, John Grabow 3, Salomon Torres 4
New York Yankees
Derek Jeter, SS4120123 .300
Hideki Matsui, DH4112104 .278
Gary Sheffield, RF4012002 .295
Alex Rodriguez, 3B3000110 .321
Ruben Sierra, LF4000013 .224
    Bubba Crosby, LF0000000 .167
Bernie Williams, CF3100100 .232
Jason Giambi, 1B2211100 .247
    Tino Martinez, 1B0000000 .233
John Flaherty, C4020012 .216
Robinson Cano, 2B4121001 .278
Totals326965515 
Batting
2B - Derek Jeter (10, Perez), Gary Sheffield (16, Perez), Jason Giambi (5, Perez)
HR - Hideki Matsui (6, Perez)
RBI - Hideki Matsui 2 (45), Gary Sheffield 2 (41), Jason Giambi (20), Robinson Cano (19)
2-OUT RBI - Gary Sheffield 2 (7)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
E - Derek Jeter (7, misplayed grounder)
New York Yankees
Randy Johnson (W,7-5) 95110111 3.51
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Randy Johnson 8-9
Batters Faced - Randy Johnson 33
Game Information
Attendance - 54734
Game Time - 2:19
Temperature - 66
Umpires - Home - Tony Randazzo, First Base - Ed Montague, Second Base - Tom Hallion, Third Base - Paul Emmel