Yankee Defense Falters, Offense Doesn't

Pettitte Won His Tenth In Eleven Decisions

There had to be something wrong with the field on Tuesday. Despite a very strange defensive game, the Yankees and Andy Pettitte (15-7) picked up the team's sixth consecutive victory against the Royals. Pettitte was strong for six-plus innings and the Bombers connected on three homeruns to down Kansas City 6-3.

Pettitte was cruising along until the seventh inning, having allowed just six hits so far, when Raul Ibanez led off the frame by hitting a grounder toward second base. Alfonso Soriano ranged far to his right and backhanded the ball cleanly. He threw to first but it fell short and got away from Nick Johnson and into the stands for an error.

Ibanez advanced to second and came around to score on Joe Randa's single, ending Pettitte's bid for a shutout. Two outs later and with two runners on base, Desi Relaford bounced a grounder toward first base. Johnson, normally an excellent fielder, got in front of the ball but let it go through his legs as he stumbled over allowing another run to score. The next batter, Angel Berroa, hit another grounder to Soriano, who bobbled it for the third error of the inning and allowed the third run to come home.

Berroa would be Pettitte's last batter, as Jeff Nelson came on to pitch to Mike Sweeney. Pettitte notched his tenth win in his last eleven decisions by lasting 6 2/3 innings and allowing three runs – only one earned – on eight hits. He didn't walk a batter and struck out six.

Nelson was lights out, getting Sweeney to ground out with a runner on third. "Nellie" retired all four batters he faced, two by strikeout.

The Yankees started their offensive party in the third inning against Kevin Appier, who held them scoreless as the Royals pounded them 11-0 just a week ago. Aaron Boone walked and moved to second on Karim Garcia's deep fly out. Alfonso Soriano then connected on his 26th homerun of the season to put the Yanks up 2-0.

Bernie Williams made it 4-0 in the next inning, crushing a two-run homer to right field. It was his ninth homer of the season, and first at Yankee Stadium in 2003. In the fifth, Garcia teed off on Appier, sending a solo homerun off the facing of the upper deck. Garcia has now homered in three straight games.

In the sixth inning, the Yankees saw some speedy baserunning from an unlikely source. With one out, Jason Giambi walked. One out later, Giambi stole second base standing up for just his second stolen base of the season. Hideki Matsui followed with a soft dunker over the shortstop's head that Giambi was able to score on to give the Yanks a 6-0 lead.

Appier (8-9) took the loss for the Royals. He allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in six innings. He didn't strike out a batter for the first time this season in a game in which he lasted at least three innings.

Mariano Rivera earned his 26th save of the season by working a scoreless ninth. He struck out a batter and gave up a strange hit to Ken Harvey. Harvey led off the inning by hitting a grounder off Rivera's leg. The ball bounced over to Soriano at second, who fielded it cleanly but fell down on the outfield grass when he went to throw.

The Yankees weren't the only ones that had a rough time in the field. Ibanez, the Royals left fielder, slipped and fell while fielding Alfonso Soriano's hit in the seventh. Soriano advanced to second and was credited with a double.

The Yankees moved to 30 games over .500 for the first time in 2003. They will look to sweep the Royals and win their seventh straight on Wednesday at 1:05 pm. Roger Clemens (11-7, 3.57) will face the Royals for the last time in his career as he starts for the Yankees. Jimmy Gobble (2-1, 3.52) will take the mound for Kansas City in just the fourth start of his career.

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