Allow me to present part of the IM convo Ben and I had during the game:
me: this game has walk-off win written all over it
Benjamin: i hope
Sent at 9:58 PM on Friday
That was right after Carlos Gomez nearly broke Mark Teixeira’s arm by running inside the baseline down to first, prompting a shouting match between players and managers. The game just had that feel to it, the feel that no matter how many baserunners the Yanks left on base (eleven to be exact), no matter how many pitches in the other batter’s box were called strikes, and no matter how many times Justin Morneau went deep, that they would just find a way to pull out a W.
Rewind back to the early innings. The molten hot Johnny Damon struck out on a questionable pitch in the first, then Morneau led off the second by hitting a ball at his shins into the Yanks’ bullpen. Phil Hughes walked the next two batters and looked to be on the way to another short outing, but he escaped the inning without allowing another run. Alex Rodriguez led off the following frame and received a nice hand from the crowd in his first game at the New Stadium. He worked a walk, the first of four on the night. It’s a good thing the RAB Fantasy League counts OBP as a stat, I need all the help I can get.
Jumping ahead to the third, we saw a side of Johnny Damon we haven’t seen before. After being rung up on a far outside pitch on the first, home plate ump Wally Bell called Damon out on a pitch well inside and set him off. Damon emphatically argued the call and was ejected (ending his streak of ten straight games with an extra base hit), but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Brett Gardner, taking over for Damon, lit a little fire under the team’s ass with an inside-the-park homer in the bottom of the seventh with the team down three runs. Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras, of all people, held the Twins at bay until the bottom of the ninth.
With Joe Nathan on the mound working for the fourth straight day, Gardner ripped a 93 mph 3-2 fastball into the right-center field gap for a triple. The guy slipped on the bag rounding first and took a nasty spill, but he still managed to make it to third. Teixeira followed with an RBI single up the middle, just out of the reach of second baseman Matt Tolbert. A-Rod drew his fourth walk of the night, not before having two pitches that nearly hit him called strikes, to put the tying run in scoring position. Hideki Matsui struck out on 2-2 slider, and Nick Swisher had a game-tying single taken away by Justin Morneau, who ranged far to his right and made a great diving stop.
With two outs and the tying and winning runs at third and second, respectively, Ron Gardenhire ordered his closer to intentionally walk Robinson Cano to get to Melky Cabrera. Now, as much as I can brag about my walk-off win prediction earlier, I have to be fair and say that right before Melky’s at-bat I told Ben “I know the numbers, but I don’t trust Melk.” Leche made me eat my words, taking the first pitch he saw and placing it perfectly between Denard Span and Carlos Gomez in left-centerfield, giving the Yanks a hard found 5-4 win. It was the Yanks’ third walk-off win and their twelfth come-from-behind win of the year.
Gardner fell a double short of the cycle, the 3-4 hitters reached base a combined seven times, Phil Hughes kept the team in the game and battled for five innings, the bullpen allowed just one run in four innings of work (acceptable), and the team is 5-2 since A-Rod returned. All is well in Yankeeland. Joba Chamberlain will look to keep the team on a roll tomorrow afternoon against Nick Blackburn, when the team has a chance to go two games over .500 for the first time since May 2nd. Given the way they’re hitting, I’m assuming tomorrow’s outfield will Damon-Gardner-Melky, from left to right. They’ve earned it.