NEW YORK (AP) -- This is what the New York Yankees have been
waiting for: their modern-day version of Murderers' Row.
They put out their top batting order for the first time, each
and every one an All-Star at some point, and Jason Giambi, Bobby
Abreu, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon and Robinson Cano all homered in
Wednesday night's 16-5 rout of the Baltimore Orioles.
"It's a lineup that you dream of," Damon said.
Giambi and Posada each had four RBI as the Yankees romped to a
13-2 lead by the fourth inning. Gary Sheffield was 2-for-3 with his
first extra-base hit since May, and appears to be regaining his
form as New York prepares for its playoff opener Tuesday against
Minnesota or Detroit.
Hideki Matsui was 2-for-2 with two walks, and the Yankees
(96-62) moved one game ahead of the Tigers for the best record in
baseball and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"The best lineup I've seen in my life," Baltimore catcher
Ramon Hernandez said. "When the No. 2 hitter in the league is
hitting ninth, that's telling you something."
That would be Cano, who went 1-for-3 and is batting .343, an
average that trails only Minnesota's Joe Mauer (.350).
Matsui hit seventh and Posada eighth. Bernie Williams and Melky
Cabrera began the night on the bench and each wound up getting a
"Wow! I haven't seen a lineup like this," Damon said.
New York heads into the postseason with pitching questions --
Randy Johnson has been pushed behind Mike Mussina to start Game 3
because of his bad back -- but the Yankees' bats look mighty, with
every starter getting a hit and scoring a run.
Sheffield and Matsui are back after missing most of the season
with wrist injuries, joining Abreu, acquired in late July from
"Hitting the ball hard is great, but you want the results,"
said Sheffield, batting .263 (5-for-19) since his return. "That
way, you can get the confidence going. If I get the confidence
going into playoffs, it will be perfect."
Giambi returned Wednesday following a six-game absence caused by
a torn ligament in his left wrist. He got his third cortisone shot
last week, played with the wrist wrapped tight and ended a streak
of 65 homerless at-bats dating to Aug. 20
"I couldn't have planned it any better," he said after a
3-for-5 night. "I'm excited. I hit the ball hard and was able to
drive the ball."
Chien-Ming Wang (19-6), selected by the Yankees to start next
week's playoff opener, tied Minnesota's Johan Santana for the major
league lead in wins, allowing four runs and 10 hits over six
innings in his regular-season finale.
"Maybe I'll be a little bit nervous," he said in his usual
Yankees manager Joe Torre used a spring training approach,
taking out most of his starters by the late innings, and he brought
in closer Mariano Rivera to pitch the seventh.
"We can score some runs," Torre said, "but again, the pitcher
has to cooperate. Good pitching always stops hitting."
Giambi erased a 1-0 deficit in the second inning with his 37th
homer, a two-run drive down the right-field line off Kris Benson
Abreu homered for the third straight day, a solo shot in the
five-run third that included Posada's three-run drive. Damon
homered leading off the five-run fourth, Cano connected for a
two-run homer off Winston Abreu in the sixth and Derek Jeter nearly
joined them in the seventh, when he doubled off the center-field
Baltimore lost its fourth straight. Benson gave up eight runs
and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings, his shortest start since May 24,
when he lasted two innings at Seattle.
"I was just going into the game with F-minus stuff facing an
A-plus team," Benson said. "There's definitely no breathing room
with that lineup. From the first pitch in the bullpen, I knew it
was going to be that kind of day."
It was the most homers for the Yankees since they had six
on July 20 last year at Texas. ... Baltimore's Kevin Millar had
hits in five straight at-bats before striking out in the fourth.
... New York broke 4 million in attendance for the second straight
season, joining Toronto (1991-92) as the only major league teams to
draw 4 million twice. The crowd of 53,040 brought the Yankees'
total to 4,032,228 with four games to go. They are on track to
break the AL record of 4,090,696 they set last year. The major
league record of 4,483,350 was set by Colorado at Denver's Mile
High Stadium in 1993, the Rockies' first season. ... Yankees
instructor Rob Thomson took over as New York's first-base coach
from Tony Pena, who learned before the game that his father had