NEW YORK — A few months from now, this matchup might mean a lot more. On a Monday in May, the Cleveland Indians were only willing to count it as one victory.
Jim Thome hit a grand slam, Manny Ramirez homered and drove in three runs and the Indians gave the New York Yankees a close-up look at the majors' most fearsome lineup in a 7-1 victory.
Playing for the first time against the team that beat them in last year's American League championship series, the Indians ended their longest losing streak of the season at three games. They also stopped New York's five-game winning string.
"I think it's much too early to place too much importance on these games," Indian Manager Mike Hargrove said. "It's two good ballclubs that hopefully, if they play the way they're capable of, will still be playing in October.
"I think it was important for us to win because we'd lost the last three. But if we lost, we weren't going to jump off a bridge."
Charles Nagy (6-3) helped Cleveland improve the major leagues' best record to 33-16. The Indians roughed up Orlando Hernandez (5-5), with Thome's grand slam making the score 7-0 in the second inning.
"We understand they have a great ballclub, a tremendous ballclub," Thome said. "Right now, it's a great way to come in and say, 'OK, where are we at?'
"But May and October are different. We know it and they know it."
The Indians lead the majors in batting (.298) and scoring (6.8 runs per game), and proved those numbers are no fluke.
"They do what their advance notices said they would do," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said. "There's not an easy touch in that lineup."
There was only one bright spot for the Memorial Day crowd of 46,605--Derek Jeter tripled and scored, and has reached base in all 49 Yankee games.
Cleveland batters, meanwhile, quickly reversed a recent trend--during a 3-6 homestand that ended Sunday, they were 0 for 25 with two out and runners in scoring position.
After arguing that his long shot had nicked the right-field foul pole, Roberto Alomar returned to the batter's box and drew a two-out walk in the first inning. After Alomar stole second, Ramirez hit his 14th home run.
Though the ball easily cleared the center-field fence, it was far from a no-doubt drive. Center fielder Bernie Williams actually broke in when it was hit, and Ramirez stopped at second base, thinking the ball bounced over the wall. Only at the urging of umpire Tim Tschida did he continue his trip around the bases.
Hernandez had a chance to escape in the second, but dropped a throw covering first base for an error, leaving the bases loaded with two out.
Ramirez hit a hard grounder up the middle that nailed Tschida in the right foot--second baseman Chuck Knoblauch would've had a tough play behind the bag, at best. By rule, the ball was dead and Ramirez got a run-scoring single, giving him a major league-leading 63 runs batted in and making him eight for 10 with the bases loaded.