BALTIMORE — George Steinbrenner isn’t paying $200million in player salaries to watch his New York Yankees sputter along in last place.
The outspoken owner waited all of two weeks before demanding that his team start winning — or else.
Miguel Tejada hit his eighth career grand slam, and the Baltimore Orioles roughed up Kevin Brown and completed a three-game sweep of New York with an 8-4 victory yesterday. The Yankees (4-8) have dropped four straight and eight of 10 overall.
“Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed as I’m sure all Yankee fans are by the lack of performance by our team,” Steinbrenner said in a statement issued immediately after the game.
“It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk. They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win, and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around.”
Torre, who held a brief team meeting after the game, did not take Steinbrenner’s comments lightly.
“He’s right. What are you going to say? I’m not going to dispute that,” the manager said. “If I try to defend what we’ve been doing, you’d have to check my sanity. This stuff out here is not pretty. We have to make it better. No question.”
Melvin Mora homered for the Orioles, who took a 6-0 lead in the second inning and coasted to their sixth win in seven games. Baltimore improved to 5-1 against New York this season after their first sweep of the Yankees since 2000.
Ruben Sierra and Alex Rodriguez homered for the Yankees, whose four-game losing streak matches their longest skid of 2004. New York, which went 14-5 against Baltimore a year ago, has been outscored by the Orioles 47-26 this season.
The Yankees concluded a 1-5 road trip that included two losses in three games against their archrivals, the Boston Red Sox. That was bad enough, but Steinbrenner could no longer contain his anger after watching New York get swept by a team mired in a run of seven straight losing seasons.
“What did you expect him to say, we’re playing great? Keep up the good work?” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “We haven’t been playing well. It’s easy to see. We just have to turn it around. That’s basically it.”
Said Torre: “We just need to get a little spark back. We’re flat right now, we’re on our heels and we’re not playing well.”
The Orioles, on the other hand, are performing far better than expected.
Tejada went 3-for-4 with two doubles, raising his batting average to .375 and his American League-leading RBI total to 18. He went 6-for-12 with eight RBI in the series.
Daniel Cabrera (1-1) gave up three runs and eight hits in six innings, and streaking Brian Roberts went 2-for-4 with a walk and scored a run. Roberts, who has a hit in all 12 games this season, is batting .449.
It all added up to yet another win over the Yankees, who have won the season series from Baltimore in 20 of the last 22 years.
“They have a lot of superstars over there, so we are going to enjoy the moment,” Tejada said.
Making his 2005 debut after spending the first two weeks on the disabled list with a strained back, Brown (0-1) allowed six runs and nine hits in six innings. The right-hander walked two and struck out three.
Brown retired the first two batters in the first inning before Mora hit his second homer. Tejada then doubled and scored on a single by Sammy Sosa, who went to third on a double by Rafael Palmeiro before Brown retired Jay Gibbons on a fly ball.
In the second, Roberts drew a two-out walk, David Newhan singled and Mora walked before Tejada hit an 0-1 pitch an estimated 420 feet over the center-field wall. It was his third homer and extended his run of games with at least one RBI to nine — one short of the team record held by Reggie Jackson (1976) and Doug DeCinces (1978).
Jeter singled in a run in the fifth, and Sierra hit a two-run shot in the sixth to make it 6-3.
The Orioles scored twice in the seventh against the New York bullpen. Paul Quantrill left with the bases loaded before Palmeiro drew a walk from Mike Stanton to force in a run, and Luis Matos hit an RBI single off Steve Karsay.
Rodriguez hit his second home run in the eighth off Steve Reed.
Notes — Palmeiro’s 2,931st hit moved him past Rogers Hornsby into sole possession of 31st place on the career list. … The Yankees optioned infielder Andy Phillips to Class AAA Columbus to make room for Brown on the 25-man roster. … All three games in the series were sellouts, and the cumulative attendance of 144,542 was the third largest for a three-game series in the 14-year history of Camden Yards.