NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson threw his hands up in disgust after Jose Hernandez's easy liner dropped in for a single in the sixth inning. It was the Cleveland Indians ' ninth hit of the afternoon and the Big Unit was frustrated. Nothing he tried seemed to be working.
Johnson struggled through six unremarkable innings, but a Yankees' offense led by Jason Giambi and Ruben Sierra picked him up and impressed their demanding boss with a 9-4 victory over Cleveland on Sunday.
"It was just a 'this is how the day is going' gesture," said catcher John Flaherty, who made a similar motion with his hands.
Riding the elevator after the victory, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave a hint of a smile when asked if his team is finally living up to his expectations.
"Yes, the way we are playing now," he said.
Giambi hit a two-run homer, and Sierra drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single to lift the Yankees to their seventh win in eight games. The third-place Yankees moved within 2½ games of AL East-leading Boston -- the closest they've been to first since April 15, when they were 4-6.
The Yankees improved to a season-high six games over .500 for the third time behind Giambi's 10th homer of the season -- fifth in six games -- Gary Sheffield's late three-run homer, and Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook's wildness.
"It was important -- after losing yesterday to come back and win," manager Joe Torre said. "This is something we have not been able to do."
The teams return from the All-Star break with four games against their respective division leaders, beginning Thursday. The Indians host the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox, and the Yankees head to Fenway Park to play the Red Sox.
"This is what we want," Sheffield said. "The way we're playing right now, you want to play the first-place team and take back the division."
Mariano Rivera earned his first two-inning save since July 11, 2003, at Toronto. It was his 20th straight save after blowing his first two chances this year.
With New York trailing 2-1 in the fourth, Giambi homered deep into the bleachers in right-center on Westbrook's first pitch after Hideki Matsui reached on shortstop Jhonny Peralta's fielding error.
Steinbrenner was happy with Giambi's turnaround -- the first baseman raised his average to .278 after batting just .195 in mid-May -- but issued a challenge.
"He just has to keep it going," Steinbrenner said.
The Indians tied it in the fifth on Travis Hafner's one-out sacrifice fly after Johnson allowed singles to Aaron Boone and Grady Sizemore leading off.
In the bottom half, the Yankees scored three times with two outs. After retiring the first two batters, Westbrook (6-11) walked Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez. Matsui followed with an RBI double, and Giambi was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Sierra, a switch-hitter batting left-handed, lined a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field to drive in two runs and make it 6-3.
"In the fifth inning I set it up for them again with those back-to-back walks," Westbrook said. "I wasn't very good in certain situations and I basically lost the game. If I cut down the walks, the game's a lot different. You definitely can't get the job done walking five guys."
Hafner's third RBI of the game, a one-out single in the seventh off Wayne Franklin made it 6-4. Sheffield hit his 17th of the season off Bob Howry in the eighth to close out the scoring.
Johnson allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in each of the first five innings. But he used seven strikeouts, two nice plays from third baseman Rodriguez and a pair of runners caught stealing by catcher Flaherty to limit the Indians.
In the first and third innings with the infield playing in, Rodriguez snared hard-hit, one-out grounders by Victor Martinez to hold the runner at third.
Flaherty bailed Johnson out in the fourth. With runners on first and second with none out, Flaherty threw out Hernandez at third after Peralta struck out. Flaherty, who has become Johnson's personal catcher, then threw out Ronnie Belliard trying to swipe second to end the inning.
Johnson was done after six innings, having thrown 109 pitches. He allowed three runs and nine hits, and struck out eight while walking one.
"I gave up a lot of hits, but not a lot of runs," Johnson said. "They're a real aggressive team, a lot like Texas but with a little less power. I kind of kept the damage to a minimum."
Rookie Melky Cabrera had trouble with another ball hit to straightaway center field -- he misplayed two Saturday -- and it led to Cleveland's first run. One out after Sizemore doubled on the game's first pitch, Hafner hit a liner to center that Cabrera got a late jump on. The ball nicked off his outstretched glove and rolled toward the wall as Sizemore scored.
Boone doubled in a run in the second. In the bottom half, Flaherty had a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to bring the Yankees to 2-1.
- The crowd of 54,256 was the Yankees ninth straight sellout and 20th this season.
- Boone was 8-for-16 against his former team in the four-game series.
- Matsui had three hits and scored three runs.