Following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles this weekend, the Yankees arrived back in the Bronx with a 4-8 record, tied for last place with the Devil Rays. Having been outscored, 23-11, in the series, New York needed to come out with a solid effort on Monday night.
"We ran into a red-hot Baltimore team," said Alex Rodriguez. "You start wondering, is it you or is it them?"
New York collected 20 hits, five of them by A-Rod, who belted a pair of homers and drove in six runs. Martinez hit a grand slam and added six RBIs of his own, one of six Yankees to have more than one hit in the game.
"We have a veteran team that has been through a lot," Rodriguez said. "Joe challenged us, and the team responded really well."
"We needed a win, period," Martinez said. "We knew we needed a win. It didn't need to be a blowout, we just needed a win under our belts to get things going again. We know it's a long season and we have a long way to go, but we wanted to start now sooner than later."
Whatever the motivation was, it worked. The Yankees took the drama out of this one very early, ringing Rob Bell and Lance Carter for 13 runs in the second inning. Rodriguez hit the first of his two homers to get the scoring started, while Martinez capped the frame with a grand slam, the 11th of his career.
The 13-run inning was the biggest for the Yankees since June 21, 1945, when they scored 13 in the fifth inning of a 14-4 win at Boston. Monday marked just the third time they have scored 13 in an inning, the first at Yankee Stadium. Every Yankees hitter had at least one hit and scored at least one run in the inning.
"It seemed like everything they put up there, we were hitting," Martinez said. "The guys played hard tonight, had great at-bats and fed off each other."
Jaret Wright gave two runs back in the third, but A-Rod belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, making it 15-2. It marked the 37th career multi-homer game for Rodriguez, who now has 385 in his career, tying Dwight Evans for 46th place on the all-time list. A-Rod finished the night with five hits, tying a career high.
"We fed off the energy of the crowd today, being back home," Rodriguez said. "It was a nice win for us. We needed to stop the bleeding from this weekend."
"He's swinging it really well," Torre said. "He got us off on the right track, got the two runs back that we gave away. It was a good game for the offense."
Things weren't as easy for Wright as they were for his teammates, as he struggled with his location despite being spotted a 13-run lead. Wright had a hard time in the fifth, allowing five runs on six hits, as Tampa Bay cut the lead to 15-7.
"Sometimes when pitchers go out there with big leads, they try to throw strikes, which is the worst thing you can do," Torre said. "It takes you out of that pitching mode."
Wright came back out for the sixth, but lasted just three batters. He was charged with eight runs on 11 hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings, but he earned the win to improve to 2-1.
"Once it starts to go a little bit downhill, you start to try too hard," Wright said. "It's a mistake, something you think you can control, but I just didn't do that."
Although the night was rocky for Wright, he's not complaining about the tremendous run support.
"It's great. If they scored 20 or 30, that's fine," he said. "There's never a point where I'd say, 'I want to go back out there.' If they want to hit until the sun comes up, that's fine as a pitcher."
Tuesday, the Yankees will try to win two in a row for the first time since the first two games of the season, sending Randy Johnson to the hill against Hideo Nomo.
"We just have to build on this," Torre said. "We can't get too excited about one win. We have a team that needs a streak, to put some things together and get a good overall feeling."