04/25/08 11:50 PM ET
Long fifth costs Pettitte in Cleveland
Indians plate four on four straight two-out hits to edge Yankees
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Jhonny Peralta and Franklin Gutierrez clubbed back-to-back home runs as part of a two-out rally as the Indians defeated the Yankees, 6-4, on Friday night in a rematch of last year's American League Division Series.
Pitching on the same diamond where he left a memorable Game 2 with a lead before a swarm of Lake Erie midges attacked Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, Pettitte wasn't able to keep the advantage his offense provided this time, allowing five runs (four earned).
"I fought with myself the whole game," Pettitte said. "I battled my command and really never felt like I got in a real good rhythm. With two outs, I had a hard time getting guys out. They really made me work extremely hard and really wore me down pretty good."
Pettitte's evening at Progressive Field came unhinged in a troublesome fifth inning in which Cleveland scored four times. Pettitte recorded the first two outs easily, but then allowed two singles as his arm strength evaporated, drawing pitching coach Dave Eiland to the mound.
Peralta rocketed a three-run shot into the left-field seats for his fifth home run, and Gutierrez followed with a longer shot for his second, marking the first time Cleveland had hit consecutive homers this year. Peralta's shot came on a 3-1 changeup that hung, and Gutierrez's on a sinker that acted more like a cutter.
"It's hard when you have two outs and nobody on, and he's throwing the ball well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You don't see that out of Andy very often."
Pettitte, who walked three and struck out three, noted that he was battling the after-effects of the flu bug that has circulated through the Yankees' clubhouse for weeks. That could explain in part why Peralta wondered if this was the same Pettitte who pitched in the playoffs.
"Last year, he threw harder than that," Peralta said. "I don't see him throwing as hard now. I don't know if he changed, but he had good location on the ball."
The Yankees' offense, at least through the early portion of the evening, rested entirely upon Jason Giambi. The 37-year-old slugger made an error that led to an unearned run in the first inning, but he more than atoned by posting his 36th career multiple-homer game.
Giambi reached Cleveland starter Paul Byrd for a 428-foot solo homer in the second inning and a 455-foot two-run shot in the fifth. After the second homer, Byrd pumped his arm in anger and bent over to his toes beside the mound.
The 2-for-3 performance raised Giambi's batting average to .186, though he and Girardi both said that numbers -- especially in April -- don't tell the entire story.
"I've said all along that he's looked good at the plate," Girardi said. "The results haven't been what he's wanted or what we've wanted, but the swings have been good. You look at at-bats. You don't always judge a person by numbers."
"Unfortunately, this is a game of results," Giambi said. "It's too bad you can't put stars next to your name for taking good at-bats and account for your average. That's the tough part."
Giambi has worn out Cleveland pitching in general -- he was 8-for-16 against the Indians in 2007 and has now homered in five straight games against the Tribe, as well as seven of his past eight at Progressive Field dating back to 2005.
"I think every player has certain parks he really likes to hit in," Giambi said. "I see the ball good here, and I enjoy coming here."
Hideki Matsui brought the Yankees back to within one run in the sixth inning, when he slugged his fourth home run of the year, a solo shot to right that chased Byrd and extended Matsui's hitting streak to seven games. The right-handed Byrd, who knocked the Yankees out in Game 4 of last year's ALDS, finished after 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits.
"Paul Byrd knows how to pitch," Girardi said. "The big thing about him is that you've got to be patient and get a good pitch to hit. Sometimes when pitchers are always ahead, that becomes harder to do. Everything he throws moves, and you see guys just pop balls up."
The Indians completed the scoring when Jamey Carroll knocked in a run facing former Indians lefty Billy Traber in the sixth inning, and Rafael Perez stifled New York for 2 1/3 innings before Rafael Betancourt hurled a scoreless ninth for his second save.
With third baseman Alex Rodriguez (0-for-4) back in the lineup after missing three games due to a strained right quadriceps, the Yankees' Opening Day lineup was back together for the first time since April 1 against the Blue Jays. That left Giambi hopeful that more productive days would be ahead.
"That's important," Giambi said. "That's the way the Yankees are going to win, having our best team out there and having those guys healthy. To get Alex back in the groove, though he missed some days, it's nice to see the lineup the way it is. Hopefully, everyone will settle in."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.