08/25/2004 10:33 PM ET
Gordon stumbles, Yankees fall
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. "He's pressing," said manager Joe Torre. (Tony Dejak/AP)
CLEVELAND -- First, there was Anaheim's Rally Monkey. Wednesday, the Yankees may have helped create a new monster: the Rally Squirrel.
The Indians mounted a two-run rally against Tom Gordon in the eighth inning, defeating the Yankees, 4-3, to avoid a three-game sweep. Cleveland snapped a nine-game losing streak, while New York lost for the seventh time in its last 10 games.
The squirrel, which appeared in the outfield in the early innings, remained on the field for the entire game, even causing two stoppages of play when it made its way to the infield.
"The squirrel really struggled for us tonight," joked Derek Jeter.
In reality, it was the Yankees' bats that struggled, as New York scored three runs -- two of which were made possible by Cleveland errors -- while going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Alex Rodriguez's struggles continued, as the third baseman went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, lowering his season average to .200 in those situations.
"I feel good. I hit the ball hard all series," Rodriguez said. "But the results with men in scoring position haven't been good, and they have to get better."
"He's pressing," said manager Joe Torre. "He's very talented, and he's a big player, but it doesn't keep him from being human. He expects a lot from himself, and right now, it's not working for him."
Orlando Hernandez did a solid job for the Yankees, allowing two runs over six innings of work. El Duque left the game with a one-run lead, but the right-hander watched the bullpen let the lead slip away.
"We certainly need to produce more runs," Torre said. "We're putting a lot of pressure on our pitchers by playing these types of games."
Kenny Lofton, a former Cleveland All-Star, singled in the third inning for the 2,000th hit of his career. Lofton, who received a nice ovation from the Jacobs Field crowd of 30,605, is the 235th player (25th active) to reach that mark.
"It was a relief to finally get to 2,000," Lofton said. "It's kind of ironic that I got it in Cleveland. It was good to get an ovation from a crowd I played for for nine years."
Jake Westbrook, who was dealt by the Yankees to the Indians in 2000 for David Justice, held his former team to one run over the first six innings, but two of Cleveland's season-high four errors led to a two-run seventh, as the Yankees took the lead.
While the Yankees were rallying in the seventh, the squirrel made its way behind the plate, bringing Jeter's at-bat to a halt. The scoreboard flashed a photo of the squirrel, only a tiny Indians jersey had been super-imposed on the animal's chest.
"He didn't get in the way too much," Jeter said with a smile, "except for when I was hitting."
"I'm sure he was scared," Torre said. "I noticed he kept running away from [Gary] Sheffield."
The Yankees turned the game over to their exceptional bullpen, as Paul Quantrill tossed a scoreless seventh inning. But Tom Gordon, pitching for the fourth straight day, couldn't get the job done in the eighth.
Gordon walked Ben Broussard and Blake to start the inning, and Jody Gerut bunted the runners over to second and third. Ron Belliard lifted a sac fly to right, scoring pinch-runner John McDonald to tie the game at 3.
"The last couple games have been a battle for me," said Gordon, who has now blown saves in three of his last five games. "I don't walk too many guys, but the last couple nights, that's hurt me."
Crisp then caught the Yankees by surprise, dropping a bunt past Gordon toward second base. Enrique Wilson fielded it and threw to first, but Coco Crisp slid head-first into the base, beating the throw and allowing Blake to score the go-ahead run.
"I anticipated it," Gordon said. "When I first saw it, I thought I had a chance at it."
"Once it gets past the pitcher, you have no chance," Jeter said. "It was a perfect bunt."
Rafael Betancourt closed out the game with a scoreless ninth, earning his third save.
This marked the first time in Hernandez's nine starts this season that the Yankees did not come away with a win. The loss cut the Yankees' lead over the Red Sox to 5 1/2 games in the AL East.
"I didn't get 'em. That's the way it goes," Gordon said. "I'm disappointed because I didn't get the job done."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.