After a wild, intense weekend at Shea -- one that ended so traumatically Sunday it prompted a trade for Expos reliever Ugueth Urbina -- the Yankees turned a semi-desperate gaze towards Roger Clemens on Monday night.
Their expression, so basic and obvious, needed no translation: Rescue us. Please.
Stoic as ever, pretending to not even sense the Yankees' need for day-after therapy, The Rocket nevertheless smothered the Tigers, 10-1 -- a performance so one-sided, the postgame discussions varied from Clemens' All-Star chances to Bernie Williams' inhuman hot streak to whether that loss to the Mets really did wound the Yankees.
"Well, it was a disappointing loss, but not a devastating one," manager Joe Torre said. "Seeing Roger out there is a comforting feeling."
In other words, order has been restored to the Yankee universe, even if the front office refuses to stand still. A deal for Urbina was to be announced today.
The Yankees reportedly will send Triple-A infielder D'Angelo Jimenez and Triple-A pitcher Brandon Knight to Montreal for Urbina. The deal is contingent upon all three players passing physical exams. Considering the physical histories of Urbina and Jimenez, that's no guarantee.
Urbina had two elbow surgeries last season and was done for the year by May 9. Jimenez was in a severe car accident two years ago in his native Dominican Republic, fracturing a bone in his neck.
Urbina, 29, was regarded as one of the best closers in baseball when he made 41 saves in 1999. This season, Urbina has nine saves, a 0-1 record and a 4.55 ERA in 31 games. He is eligible for salary arbitration after this season.
His acquisition is welcome news to a middle-relief corps that needed a night off.
Clemens carried that weight, all right, scattering seven hits en route to becoming the American League's first nine-game winner. The Rocket allowed a first-inning run, but after discovering how to compensate for Comerica Park's flatter-than-usual mound -- he dropped back his leg uncharacteristically low while pushing off the rubber -- he spent the rest of the night improving his All-Star team resume.
Torre, who'll select the AL's pitching staff, said there's "no question" The Rocket has earned a spot on the squad, although Clemens himself said, "I think there are a couple of guys who deserve it more than me."
A point not debated is Williams' return to elite-caliber clutch hitting: He went 2-for-5 and is on a 35-for-74 tear, raising his average from .205 to .313.
Williams slugged an opposite-field, two-run homer in the Yankees' five-run fourth inning against Jeff Weaver -- a blast that fattened their lead to 7-1.
By then, the Yankees were using the Tigers' hurlers for extended batting practice, which answered any questions about the effects of Mike Piazza's home run Sunday.
More importantly, Williams seems to have found closure over his father's recent death. At one point after returning to the club, Williams said, "if it was up to me, I'd take the rest of the season off," although he seems more focused now.
"I've put some personal issues behind me, and that's made it easier for me to think about baseball again," Williams said before the game.
"I'm never going to stop missing my father, but I know this is what he'd want me to be doing: playing to the best of my ability," Williams said.
Williams, who added an RBI single in the sixth inning, made it easier for Clemens to conduct a power-pitching clinic, register his 269th win, and surpass Jim Palmer for sole possession of 29th place on the all-time list.
The Tigers actually had reason for hope at one point, since they'd taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning -- a lead built upon Roger Cedeno's lead-off double, Jorge Posada's assed ball, and Tony Clark's sacrifice fly.
The Rocket allowed a run in the first and was bailed out from a one-out, runners-on-the-corners predicament in the second by a double play. Clemens didn't sweat much after that, especially since the Yankees started bludgeoning Weaver.
That was no small accomplishment, since Weaver had been averaging a strikeout an inning in his last five starts and was fifth in the AL with a 3.24 ERA. But the Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the third inning after Soriano singled, Chuck Knoblauch lashed a run-scoring double to left, and eter added an RBI single.
That, followed by the five-run rally in the fourth inning, made a prophet out of Torre, who said during batting practice that Sunday's night loss to the Mets would quickly evaporate.
"There's not a lot of down time with these guys," the manager said.
If nothing else, the four-hour marathon with the Mets made it physically impossible for the Yankees to dwell on the loss, since they didn't land in Detroit until 5 a.m. Monday and many of the players were still numb with fatigue by midafternoon.
"I know I didn't sleep much," said Tino Martinez. "You get to bed at 5 a.m., it's hard to sleep until noon. At least it is for me. The only thing you can
See AL Page B9
AL: Henson hitless in Triple A return
Continued from Page B8
do is show up to the park and hit."
Henson back in Triple A
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Drew Henson wasn't discouraged, even though his Triple-A debut didn't compare with his last performance in Columbus.
Making his first appearance with the New York Yankees' top farm club, Henson was hitless in four at-bats and had a fielding error Monday night as the Columbus Clippers lost to Richmond, 9-5.
"One game's one game," Henson said. "I'll come back and play tomorrow. It's nothing to get down about."
Last November, Henson -- then a quarterback instead of a third baseman -- threw for three touchdowns and 303 yards and ran for the clinching score with just over a minute left as Michigan beat rival Ohio State, 38-26, before the largest home crowd ever to watch the Buckeyes.
Some were concerned that unforgiving Ohio State fans might greet Henson with boos, but he received polite applause when his name came up in the starting lineup and when he was announced before his first at-bat. There was some jeering after the error.
Henson spent most of the last two months healing. In five games at Double-A Norwich of the Eastern League, he hit .368. He spent most of last year at Norwich, batting .287 with seven homers and 39 RBIs in 59 games.
"The hand is healed. It feels fine," said Henson, who wore uniform No. 6 instead of the No. 7 he wore at Michigan. "There's no problems with it. They kept me down there long enough until it was fully healed."
Zito changes luck
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Barry Zito hasn't had much luck winning except for when he pitches against the Seattle Mariners.
Zito ended a five-game losing streak and snapped Oakland's four-game losing streak, allowing three runs in seven innings as the A's beat the Mariners, 4-3.
The Mariners lost two in a row for the first time in a month. Zito also beat Seattle on April 3, shutting them out through seven innings in a 5-1 victory.
The Mariners, who have the majors' best record (52-16), had not dropped two straight since May 18-19 to the New York Yankees. Seattle, which has four two-game losing streaks and none longer, lost 11-9 at San Diego on Sunday.
"Basically, we just have to keep playing," said Seattle's David Bell, who drove in a pair of runs.
Around the horn
Magglio Ordonez homered for the sixth time in seven games and Mark Buehrle won his fifth straight start as the White Sox beat the Royals, 5-4. . . . A bases-empty home run by rookie designated hitter Jay Gibbons helped overcome an early two-run deficit and rookie shortstop Brian Roberts' one-out triple began a game-winning, seventh-inning rally that carried the Orioles past the Blue Jays, 3-2. First baseman David Segui doubled home Roberts with the winning run in a game that leapfrogged the Orioles past the Blue Jays and into third place in the AL East. Sidney Ponson (4-4) pitched six scoreless innings after giving up two runs in the first.