In 10 years, Austin Kearns has just two career hits against A.J. Burnett. He’s made them both count.
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Kearns hit his first homer in 105 at-bats this season, a stunning three-run shot in the seventh inning off Burnett, sending the Cleveland Indians to a 6-3 win and spoiling All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter’s return to the Yankees’ lineup Monday night.
With two on and the Indians trailing 2-1, Kearns, who has been in a slump all season, hit a 1-0 pitch from Burnett (8-7) the opposite way to right for his first homer since Aug. 22, when he wore Yankee pinstripes. Kearns came up batting only .192 with two RBIs in a part-time role.
He was only 1 of 11 against Burnett — a grand slam for Cincinnati as a rookie in 2002.
”It’s a funny game,” Kearns said.
Jeter was back in his familiar spot at shortstop and again atop the batting order for the first time since June 13, when he went on the disabled list with a calf injury. New York’s captain went 0 for 4 and remained six shy of becoming the first Yankees player to reach 3,000 hits.
”I felt fine, no problems, no issues,” Jeter said. ”I was nervous at the beginning, almost like it was opening day again. It was just nerves. Three weeks is definitely a long time to be out. I felt better as the game went on.”
Josh Tomlin (10-4), who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, allowed two runs and three hits and improved to 7-1 at home this season. The Indians’ right-hander also became the first pitcher since 1919 to go at least five innings in each of his first 29 career appearances.
”He was able to hold down that amazing lineup,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. ”He doesn’t back down from anybody.”
Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the eighth for Cleveland, finally back home after a nine-game interleague trip.
Chris Perez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 20th save in 21 tries as the Indians improved to 25-14 at Progressive Field, which was sold out for the third time in 2011.
Curtis Granderson hit his 23rd homer for the Yankees, who have lost two straight after a seven-game winning streak.
Following the game, Manager Joe Girardi revealed that closer Mariano Rivera was not available because of a sore triceps muscle. Both Girardi and Rivera downplayed the discomfort.
”I’m not concerned at all,” the 41-year-old Rivera said. ”It was sore today. I got a lot of treatment. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pitch tomorrow.”
Trying to become the first pitcher in 53 years to no-hit the Yankees by himself, Tomlin retired 18 straight entering the seventh and was poised to deliver a Fourth of July spectacular to a rare sellout crowd that included roughly 15,000 very vocal Yankees fans.
However, Mark Teixeira broke up Tomlin’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single to center. Tomlin buckled down and struck out Alex Rodriguez before Robinson Cano reached on a lucky infield single that caromed off the plate and stayed fair as it dribbled down the third-base line. Cano laughed as he crossed first base.
Nick Swisher followed by jumping on the first pitch and splitting the outfielders with a double that rolled to the wall, scoring Teixeira and Cano to make it 2-0.
Burnett couldn’t hold the lead. He gave up a one-out walk in the seventh to Grady Sizemore but then struck out Orlando Cabrera. The right-hander walked rookie Lonnie Chisenhall and was ahead of Shelley Duncan 0-2 before he fouled off four pitches and dumped a 2-2 pitch into right for an RBI single.
Up came Kearns, who drove an outside fastball over the fence in right, giving the Indians a 4-2 lead. Cleveland’s crowd tried to get Kearns to take a curtain call, but the outfielder who has become a target for fans wondering why the Indians are keeping him, stayed out of sight.
”I had no idea,” Kearns said of the ovation. ”I was just glad to get it done.”
Burnett was more upset with the walks than the homer.
”You can’t do that,” he said. ”He was probably looking away and I threw a fastball off the plate. They made some good at-bats that inning, but it was the two walks that did me in. I threw the ball well. Without the two walks, that’s a solo shot.”
The Yankees got within 4-3 on Granderson’s shot to right off reliever Vinnie Pestano.
Santana gave the Indians some breathing room in the eighth. Travis Hafner reached on a one-out infield single, and Santana, who was briefly scratched before the game and then reinserted, hit his 13th homer – a shot over the left-field wall against Cory Wade.
Jeter’s calf got its first major league test almost immediately.
He topped Tomlin’s second pitch toward third and raced down the first-base line as Chisenhall was booting the easy grounder for an error. Tomlin then walked Granderson, yielding his first base on balls in 24 2-3 innings. With two on, none out and their 3-4-5 hitters coming up, the Yankees appeared to be in business.
However, Tomlin retired Teixeira, Rodriguez and Cano on easy flyballs to escape an early hole.
In his second at-bat, Jeter flied out to center. He grounded to third in the sixth and lined to shortstop in the eighth.
”Tomlin knows how to pitch,” Jeter said. ”He didn’t throw a ball over the plate all day to me. He really mixed it up. He knows what he is doing.”
Girardi was happy to have Jeter back and said he would wait to see how the 37-year-old felt afterward before deciding how much the 12-time All-Star will play before the break.
Notes: The Yankees haven’t been no-hit by one pitcher since Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm in 1958. Six Houston pitchers did it to the Yankees in 2003. … Indians 1B Matt LaPorta, out since June 18 with a sprained right ankle, took batting practice, grounders and ran the bases in what may have been his final test before being activated. Acta said LaPorta will have a similar workout Tuesday before the team decides whether to activate him or send him on a minor league rehab assignment.