- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

NEW YORK Despite their utter dominance of baseball in recent years, the New York Yankees have never truly lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname. The Yankees have won four of the last six World Series not by outslugging their opponents but by outpitching them and outperforming them in the clutch.

Jason Giambi, though, hasn't become one of the sport's most-feared hitters by beating out infield grounders or blooping Texas Leaguers over the shortstop's head. Giambi is the embodiment of the modern slugger an intimidating presence at the plate who can crush any pitch in any situation into the stratosphere.

And since his arrival in the Big Apple this spring, the Yankees have taken on his hulk-like persona. Giambi was one of three Yankees to belt home runs in a span of four batters last night, catapulting New York to a 13-5 thrashing of the Baltimore Orioles in a game that started out much closer.

Giambi, Robin Ventura and Rondell White all went deep in an eight-run sixth inning, turning what had been a compelling one-run game into a Bronx blowout. Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano added another shot in the seventh, giving the Yankees four homers for the night to continue their torrid pace.

"With a guy like Jason Giambi, you are walking a tightrope all the time," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Because at any time he can do that to you."

In the last six years, New York has never been higher than fourth in the American League in home runs. That, however, was in the pre-Giambi age. Through 59 games this season, the Yankees have hit 96, well on pace to set a club record and amazingly 32 more than the next-closest team in baseball.

Giambi's 16th homer of the season started the onslaught last night. The Yankees entered the sixth trailing 5-4, but Baltimore starter Scott Erickson began to falter. Erickson nearly got out of the inning unscathed, when with one out and a runner on first, he got Alberto Castillo to ground sharply to Jeff Conine.

The Orioles first baseman attempted to turn a difficult 3-6-3 double play with shortstop Mike Bordick, and the duo thought they had pulled it off until Conine realized he had made a grave mistake. Bordick's throw had Castillo beat, but Conine missed the bag with his foot and showed obvious frustration with himself upon realizing it.

"I had an easy double play to turn and I didn't," said Conine, who was also upset at his low and wide throw to Bordick. "I rushed it, and I had a lot more time than I thought."

The gaffe one of five Orioles defensive mistakes last night seemed innocent enough, but the Yankees pounced on the opportunity and blew the game wide open. Derek Jeter hit a bases-loaded single, scoring two to give New York the lead and knocking Erickson (3-6) from the game.

Hargrove summoned left-hander B.J. Ryan to face Giambi, a matchup that had resulted in a key strikeout the night before. This time Giambi worked the count full and then belted a moon shot to right field that was hit so high it plummeted straight down and landed only a few rows beyond the short Yankee Stadium porch.

"I just made a bad pitch," Ryan said. "I stuck it in there last night. I didn't stick it in there tonight."

Said Giambi: "He threw me three great pitches Monday night. That kid's got a great arm. He'll be in the big leagues for 10 years."

That put the Yankees up 9-5, but they were far from done. Ryan gave up a single to Bernie Williams, then served up another gopher ball, this time to Ventura. Ventura's 14th homer of the season far more than the veteran has ever had the first week in June drove Ryan from the game and brought in former No.5 starter Calvin Maduro to mop things up.

White crushed his first pitch to left-center for a solo homer. Soriano added one more for good measure in the seventh, giving the New York leadoff hitter 15 for the season (more than any player on the Baltimore roster).

Afterwards, Conine was still lamenting the double play that wasn't, a missed opportunity that could have changed the entire game around.

"Knowing that you should be in the dugout with a 5-4 lead instead of watching them run around the bases it's a bad feeling," he said.

Note Regular leadoff hitter Melvin Mora sat out last night's game. Though Hargrove said Mora was fine and was just getting the night off, the Baltimore outfielder had his back wrapped in ice following the game. Mora appeared to tweak it running to first base Monday.

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