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Yankees Overpower the Angels

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While Frank Torre lies in a New York hospital bed awaiting a heart transplant, Joe Torre sits amid the chaos that is the New York Yankee clubhouse, wondering how to extricate his team from its summer stupor and worrying that his brother’s patience might give out before his heart.

“His medication is working and he’s stabilized, but the only problem is he has to stay in the hospital,” said Torre, the Yankee manager. “That may drive him nuts . . . that and listening to our ballgames. That combination may just kill him.”

Frank Torre must have rested a bit easier Friday night, though. The Yankees ended their season-high five-game losing streak by Bronx-bombing the Angels right out of Anaheim Stadium, smacking four home runs in a 6-2 victory in front of 27,084.

Streak-buster Andy Pettitte gave up nine hits, walked one and struck out seven in eight innings to become the American League’s first 19-game winner, and the left-hander improved to 12-2 in 15 starts following a Yankee loss.

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An East Division lead that bulged to 12 games over the Baltimore Orioles on July 29 is still at four games following the Orioles’ victory at Seattle Friday night, but at least the Yankees--and Frank Torre--could breath a small sigh of relief.

“The most important thing to realize is we’re still the team with the hammer,” Torre said. “We still have to win the fewest games in our division. If we win six of seven, seven of eight, we’ll get to the point where we were in the first half.

“We’re supposed to win because we’re a good team . . . we just have to get that feeling back.”

Torre may have fostered a more relaxed feeling after Thursday night’s extremely ugly 14-3 loss to the Angels with a short-and-not-so-sweet post-game speech to his players.

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“I told them I don’t want to see anyone before 5:15 p.m.,” Torre said of Friday’s 6 p.m. game. “All the batting practice in the world isn’t going to help you get loose.”

So, the Yankees had no pregame stretch Friday. There was no batting practice or infield practice. No meetings to discuss strategy or defensive alignments. And what happened?

Tino Martinez hit a two-run homer off Dennis Springer in the first inning, Mariano Duncan added a homer off Springer in the fourth and Darryl Strawberry and Jim Leyritz had home runs off the knuckleball pitcher in the seventh.

“We’ve been having a lot of team meetings lately, and we really thought Joe was going to blow his stack [Thursday night], we thought this was going to be the big one,” Leyritz said. “But he just said we wouldn’t be doing anything until 5 p.m. . . . sometimes the reverse works.”

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Pettitte, a strong candidate for the Cy Young Award, didn’t exactly cruise to the victory, but he seemed to pitch his best whenever the Angels threatened.

The Angels had a runner on third with one out in the first but didn’t score. They had runners on first and third with one out in the third, but Pettitte struck out Chili Davis and Garret Anderson, who had seven RBIs the night before.

George Arias’ RBI single made it 4-1 in the fourth, but Pettitte got out of a first-and-third, one-out jam again in the sixth before giving up Randy Velarde’s home run in the seventh. Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth.

“This was far from an easy game,” said Pettitte, who lowered his earned-run average to 4.23. “I was in trouble every inning but was able to make good pitches when I needed to. We definitely need for some things to go our way . . . hopefully they will starting now.”

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Springer, who blanked the Orioles in Camden Yards Sunday for the first complete game and shutout of his career, gave up six hits in 6 1/3 innings, but only 93 of his 97 pitches stayed in the ballpark.

All four Yankee home runs came on knuckleballs that hung a little too long in the strike zone.

“They didn’t really pound him around with a sustained offensive attack,” Angel interim Manager Joe Maddon said. “It was just the long balls that hurt him--he got a few up and they hit them. But that’s one of those things that can happen with a knuckler.”


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