Yankees monthly recap10/02/2004 7:20 PM ET
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
The Yankees opened their season with a two-game set in Tokyo, splitting the series with the Devil Rays. After a one-week hiatus, New York opened its schedule in the U.S., again splitting series with Tampa Bay and Chicago to start 4-4. Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown each collected career win No. 200 within three days of each other on April 11 and 14, respectively. Seven games against the rival Red Sox produced just one victory, as the Yankees' record fell to 8-11 on April 25. The Yankees closed the month with four straight wins, including a three-game sweep of Oakland, a sign of things to come, as New York finished with a winning record for the 13th consecutive April. In that series, Derek Jeter snapped an 0-for-32 skid with a homer off Barry Zito.
Jon Lieber made his long-awaited Yankees debut to open the month, defeating the Royals in the Bronx on May 1. The Yankees took the West Coast by storm, winning four of six in Oakland and Seattle to boost their record to 18-13. During that swing, Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player in history to reach 350 home runs. After winning home series against Anaheim and Seattle to regain the lead in the AL East, New York finally dropped two of three to the Rangers in Texas, snapping its streak of seven consecutive series wins. The Yankees closed out the month with five wins in six games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, but Jason Giambi wasn't there to see it, spending time on the DL with a knee injury for the first time in his career.
New York rolled into Interleague Play with five wins in the first six games of the month, then won seven of its first eight games against the National League. Bernie Williams reached 2,000 hits in his career on June 10 against the Rockies. Three days later, the Yankees posted an improbable win over the Padres, as Kenny Lofton and Hideki Matsui each homered against Trevor Hoffman in a game that New York would win in 12 innings. Less than a week later, rookie Brad Halsey made his big league debut with a win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles, though that was the Yankees' only win at Dodger Stadium. The team closed out the month in dramatic fashion, sweeping a doubleheader from the Mets and taking the first two games of a crucial series against the Red Sox.
The signature moment of the season took place on July 1, when Jeter made a spectacular diving catch into the stands against Boston, and the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Red Sox on John Flaherty's walkoff RBI single. New York finished up the first half with a four-game sweep of Tampa Bay, sending eight players -- Jeter, A-Rod, Gary Sheffield, Matsui, Giambi, Tom Gordon, Mariano Rivera and Javier Vazquez -- off to the All-Star Game in Houston on a high note. Orlando Hernandez, who won his first start of the season on July 11, helped make up for the loss of Mussina and Brown, who were both on the DL. Another tight series at Fenway brought about more memorable moments, including A-Rod's game-winning hit on July 23 and his confrontation with Jason Varitek, which sparked a bench-clearing incident. Sheffield drilled homer No. 400 in the final week, while the Yankees added Esteban Loaiza at the trade deadline, dealing Jose Contreras to Chicago.
The Yankees won 10 of their first 14 in August, as newly signed first baseman John Olerud contributed immediately, helping New York take two of three in Seattle against his former club. With Giambi still out of action with a benign tumor, Sheffield helped pick up the slack, homering against unhittable closer Joe Nathan to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins in Minnesota. Just days later, Sheffield delivered again, belting a game-winning homer against the Indians. The month ended on the lowest of lows, as the Tribe battered the Yankees, 22-0, in the worst loss in franchise history.
El Duque and Lieber helped the Yankees bounce back from their horrible loss, taking the final two games against Cleveland. But New York was dealt another blow on Sept. 3, as Brown broke his non-pitching hand by punching a clubhouse wall in frustration after a start. Torre moved A-Rod to the No. 2 spot in the order, a move that jumpstarted the reigning AL MVP. With their lead, once 10 1/2 games, now down to 2 1/2, the Yankees won nine of 11 before taking on the Sox in the first of six games. Boston got to Rivera in the first game, stunning the Bronx crowd, but the Yankees took the next two games to take control of the division. After losing two of three at Fenway the next weekend, New York returned home and clinched its seventh consecutive AL East crown on Williams' dramatic walkoff home run against the Twins.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.