The New York Yankees' big lead on the scoreboard had disappeared. Knowing the Boston Red Sox had already won their fifth straight, the Yanks' edge in the American League East was in danger of shrinking even more.
Instead, New York put together one last rally at Jacobs Field on a weekend that saw its offense punish Cleveland pitching.
The Yankees scored four runs in the ninth inning Sunday to snap a tie and beat the Indians, 11-7. New York won three of the four games in the series, leaving the teams tied for the American League's best record at 90-59 and keeping the Yankees three games ahead of Boston.
Jorge Posada's opposite-field single to left on a full-count pitch off Paul Shuey with one out in the ninth broke a 7-7 tie and gave the Yankees the victory. Rookie D'Angelo Jimenez's fourth hit and second double scored another run, and Joe Girardi's scalding single off the glove of second baseman Roberto Alomar drove in two insurance tallies.
The inning began when Bernie Williams drove a double to the base of the left-center field wall off Tom Martin (0-1). Williams was 4 for 5 with two doubles to rescue the Yankees after they blew a 6-0 lead through 3 1/2 innings.
"It was just a matter of us capitalizing on their pitching and scoring as many runs as we could," Williams said. "We had to because we knew they could come back."
This one started out easy as New York torched ex-Bison Jim Brower, making his first major league start, for six runs in 3 1/3 innings. David Cone was cruising, holding Cleveland hitless for the first 3 1/3 with five strikeouts.
"A 6-0 lead with Cone pitching, so I put that one in the bank early," admitted Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I had to take a withdrawal slip for a second."
That's for sure. Suddenly, the Indians started depositing rockets over the fence off Cone. Jim Thome's three-run blast to right with two out in the fourth energized the crowd of 42,969 and cut the lead in half. Richie Sexson went back-to-back with Thome with a towering drive to dead center that made it 6-4.
Manny Ramirez then dominated the fifth.
First, the Cleveland right fielder made a headlong dive to spear Girardi's sinking liner to end the top of the inning. In the bottom of the frame, Roberto Alomar's sacrifice fly to shallow left scored his brother Sandy to cut the New York lead to 6-5 and set the stage for Ramirez to knock Cone from the game.
With Kenny Lofton at third, Cone's demise came on a 1-1 changeup that hung tantalizingly over the plate for the AL's RBI leader (146). Ramirez pulverized it, sending it soaring to the top row of the left-field bleachers. The drive, estimated at 471 feet, was the fourth-longest ever at the Jake.
"That's one of those hits where if a guy swings and misses, you say, 'Wow, if he ever made contact with that one,' " Torre said. "Well, he did. He crushed it."
The blast, Ramirez's 40th of the season, gave the Indians a 7-6 lead and sent the decibel count soaring to levels normally reserved for October here.
Cone, who has battled shoulder stiffness and is 1-4, 5.13 in 11 starts since his perfect game July 18 against Montreal, was at a loss to explain his collapse.
"It's the worst feeling in the world for a pitcher to squander a lead like that," Cone said. "Three two-out pitches that I've got to keep the ball in the ballpark. There are no excuses. It's the wrong team to make mistakes against."
Cleveland didn't do any more damage as four New York relievers combined to blank the Tribe on three hits over the final 4 1/3 innings. Lefty Allen Watson (4-0) got the last out of the eighth, leaving two runners on, to earn the win. Chris Haney and rookie Sean DePaula held the Yankees to one run over 4 2/3 innings after Brower's departure, but Martin and Shuey couldn't hold off New York in the ninth.
The Indians finished 3-7 against the Yankees and 10-22 against New York, Boston and Texas, the AL's likely playoff teams. The Yankees scored 33 runs in the four games, shredding Indians pitchers for 51 hits.
"There's concern on our part, but it's not show time yet either," Thome noted. "It was impressive to come back like that against the Yankees but we didn't get the job done."
"We know that good teams are able to come back and we have to keep grinding it out the whole game," Williams said. "We showed a lot of character those last couple of innings."
After the game, the Indians announced that ace Bartolo Colon (16-5, 4.08) will not make tonight's start at Detroit due to a slight case of shoulder tendinitis. Colon, who will be replaced by Dwight Gooden, is expected to miss just one start and take his normal turn in the rotation Saturday at Toronto. . . . Sexson's home run, his 31st, snapped an 0-for-14 slump. He has 110 RBIs, second on the team to Ramirez. . . . Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter went 3 for 6 and his two RBIs gave him 99 for the season. Jeter was 8 for 15 in the series and reached base in 17 of 22 plate appearances.