As Robinson Cano led off second with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning about two hours ago and Brett Gardner, 2 for 20 in his short Yankee career, Mike and I were chatting online about the game. We had the following conversation prior to Gardner’s walk-off hit:
Mike: Brett Gardner, walk-off infield single right here.
Ben: That would be a tough one.
Mike: True…This is the moment that will forever define Brett Gardner’s Yankee career.
Eight pitches later, Mike’s word were strangely prophetic as Gardner sneaked a single just past the dive of
Julio Lugo Alex Cora. Robinson Cano, running with the pitch off of the noodle arm of All Star Catcher Jason Varitek™, dashed home, and the Yanks won a game they needed to win.
For the Bombers, tonight’s game featured a bit of home-grown retribution. Outside of A-Rod’s 536th home run — hello, Mickey — the Yanks won this game with a little bit of home-grown talent. Offensively, the player of the game was clearly the young Brett Gardner. He had his first multi-hit game at the Major League level, going 2 for 5 with a stolen base and the game-winning RBI. With that RBI, Gardner became the first Yankee rookie to record a walk-off hit against Boston since some guy named Derek did it in 1996.
But Gardner wasn’t the only home-grown Bomber to come through. While the home-grown Jeter drove in a run, Robinson Cano had a big role in this game. Cano went 2 for 4 with a game-tying triple in the 7th. He also scored the winning run and has generally been on fire lately. With his 2 for 4 performance tonight, Cano is now 19 for his last 48, and his triple slash line is .396/.400/.625. (He’s worked zero walks over his last 12 games.)
Meanwhile, the home-grown Bombers dazzled on the mound as well. For five of his six innings, Joba Chamberlain was downright untouchable, and his final line — 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K — shows another quality start for the youngster. After sailing through four innings, he allowed all three runs on two walks and three hits in the fifth. It was the only blemish on the evening. I’d say Joba has acquitted himself well as a starter.
The final home-grown Yankee to make an impact on this game was none other than Mariano Rivera. After giving Yankee fans a collective heart attack yesterday, Rivera rebounded with two scoreless innings. In a piece of high baseball drama, he struck out Manny Ramirez in the top of the 9th with two outs and the go-ahead runner 90 feet from home. Ramirez, in a prolonged slump, watched three pitches go by, and the crowd erupted.
For the Yankees, it’s tough to say that any game in early July is a must-win, but tonight’s win was as close as they come. The Yankees find themselves in third place, nine games behind a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t lose (and will find its way to New York for two games this week). With that victory tonight, they moved to within four games of a struggling Red Sox team in the Wild Card race, and with 73 games left in the season, anything can happen. They needed that win tonight to draw a split of a home series against the Red Sox, and the home-grown team delivered tonight.