NEW YORK – The New York Yankees needed a jump start. Once again, Alfonso Soriano provided the spark.
Soriano homered and scored three times as the Yankees roughed up Mark Mulder and beat the Oakland Athletics 8-5 Sunday to avert a three-game sweep.
“He does a lot of things,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He certainly did a nice job today.”
Soriano’s leadoff single started a three-run first as the Yankees broke their 17-inning scoreless streak. He doubled with two outs to key a two-run second.
“I think my job is get to get on base, not to hit home runs,” Soriano said.
Maybe, but he hit his 29th homer in the sixth as the Yankees tagged Mulder (13-7) for a season-high eight runs.
“The Soriano homer, I thought it was a pretty good pitch,” Mulder said. “That was the only pitch all day where I made the pitch I wanted and they hit it. He just got to it.”
Jason Giambi drove in three runs against his former team, helping the AL East leaders maintain a four-game advantage over Boston and avoid their first three-game losing streak since May 22-24.
Mike Mussina (14-6) continued to struggle, yet wound up with the win. In his last three starts, he’s given up 16 runs and 36 hits in only 16 innings.
“I’ve got a lot to improve on,” he said. “I’m working hard at it and the guys have been out there supporting me offensively quite a bit.”
Terrence Long homered and made another excellent catch in center field for the Athletics. But he also grounded into two rally-killing double plays.
The Yankees finished 5-4 this year against the wild card-contending Athletics. New York chased the A’s from the playoffs in the last two seasons.
Behind Mulder, the Athletics hoped to finish off their first three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium since July 1994.
Instead, Soriano, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams opened up with singles for a run, and Giambi followed with a bad-hop grounder over second baseman Mark Ellis in short right field for a two-run single.
Mulder recovered to strike out the next four batters, but Williams and Giambi hit RBI singles in the second.
Jeter, who began the day in a 2-for-19 skid, added an RBI single in the fourth for a 6-3 lead.
“Well, they finally got some knocks out of the top of the order,” A’s manager Art Howe said. “The first two games, we were able to keep those guys off base.”
Shane Spencer homered on Mulder’s first pitch in the sixth, and Soriano connected one out later. Soriano is one home run shy of becoming the first second baseman with 30 homers and 30 steals in a season.
Jermaine Dye hit an RBI single, and Long followed with his ninth homer to make it 3-all in the second. Scott Hatteberg singled home a run in the sixth, Mussina’s last inning.
Long robbed Ron Coomer of extra bases with a running catch in the third, grabbing the ball right before he slammed his head into the padded wall. Long stayed down on the ground for a minute or so, got a nice ovation from the crowd of 54,703 and left in the seventh inning.
Long bruised his right elbow and was listed as day to day.
Oakland’s Miguel Tejada hit a run-scoring single in the ninth for his 98th RBI.
Notes: Yankees C Jorge Posada got the day off to rest a sore knee. He caught all 16 innings of Friday night’s 3-2 loss. ... Tejada angrily flung his bat after being hit in the left elbow by Steve Karsay’s pitch in the seventh. Tejada and the Yankees have had problems in the past. ... Soriano needs one more homer to tie the team record for a second baseman, set by Joe Gordon in 1940. ... Rondell White went 0-for-17 on the Yankees’ six-game homestand, hitting the ball out of the infield only twice. ... Raul Mondesi struck out in all four at-bats for New York..