The last few days have been pretty good for Yankees fans, starting with Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit and 5-for-5 game on Saturday. After the Cap’n went deep for the milestone hit, I declared that game the best in the history of the New Yankee Stadium. Many disagreed and offered alternatives, so what follows is only natural: a poll. Let’s relive seven of the most memorable games in New Stadium history, then vote for our favorite at the end…
The Red Sox mopped the floor with the Yankees early in 2009, winning the first eight games they played. New York got into the win column on August 6th, but it wasn’t until the next night that it felt like they were over the hump. Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett dueled for seven-plus scoreless innings, then the bullpens squared off for seven more scoreless innings. Rookie Junichi Tazawa was on the mound for Boston by time the 15th inning rolled around, his big league debut. Jeter singled to lead off the inning, but the Yankees looked liked they were about to blow another opportunity after Johnny Damon popped up a bunt and Mark Teixiera struck out. Alex Rodriguez took matters into his own hands, ending the game by clobbering a 2-1 curveball into the visitor’s bullpen for the walk-off win.
They called it Yankee Stadium, but the park needed some postseason magic before it felt like home. That magic moment came in bottom of the ninth inning of Game Two of the 2009 ALDS, when the Twins were nursing a 3-1 lead with ubercloser Joe Nathan on the mound. Teixeira dunked a single into right to lead off the inning, and then Nathan made the mistake of falling behind A-Rod. His 3-1 fastball caught a little too much of the plate, and Alex did not miss it. I’ll never forget the moment of silence immediately after contact. It was almost like everyone in the building was gasping for air in disbelief. The place exploded it was clear the ball was heading over the fence for a game-tying two-run homer. It was … indescribable. David Robertson’s greatest escape job ever and Tex’s walk-off homer two innings later were almost secondary, A-Rod’s brought the house down with his ninth inning homer. There was no more looking back, the new Stadium was home now.
You can make a pretty strong case that this was the most important game in the history of the New Stadium. The Yankees got manhandled by Cliff Lee in Game One of the Fall Classic, and if they dropped Game Two they were going to Philadelphia for three games down two games to none in the best-of-seven series. A.J. Burnett did his part, shutting down the Phillies down for seven innings after giving up an early run. Pedro Martinez was on his game in the first few innings, but Tex tied things up with a solo homer in the fourth. Hideki Matsui gave the Yankees a one-run lead with a solo homer in the sixth, then Jorge Posada plated an insurance run in the seventh. Burnett struck out nine in his seven innings, handing the ball off to Mariano Rivera for the two-out save. Just like that, the Yankees were right back in the series.
The Yankees have opened every one of their new stadiums with a World Championship, and the current version is no different. Matsui drove in four runs before the end of the third inning and six total on the night, leading to his World Series MVP trophy. Andy Pettitte gave up three runs in 5.2 IP on three days rest, Joba Chamberlain chipped in a scoreless inning, Damaso Marte pitched out of the Phillies’ last threat by striking out Chase Utley on three pitches, and Mo recorded the final five outs to clinch the franchise’s 27th title. It was glorious.
Unlike the other games in the post, I was actually in attendance for this one. The Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 zip off Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first inning, but the Red Sox slowly chipped away and a back-to-back homers by Kevin Youkilis and Victor Martinez off Chan Ho Park in the eighth inning gave them a 9-7 lead. Boston had a chance to add on a few more when they had the bases loaded in the ninth, but Javy Vazquez came out of the bullpen to strike out Youkilis to end the inning. Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the ninth with a double into left and Tex nearly tied things up with a ball to deep center one batter later. A-Rod did tie the game, launching a homer into the visitor’s bullpen for two runs, but the Yankees weren’t done. Robinson Cano hit a ball to deep center like Teixeira for out number two, but Frankie Cervelli extended the inning by taking a fastball to the ribs. Mighty Marcus Thames stepped to plate hunting a first pitch fastball and he got it, hitting a walk-off two-run homer into the left field stands.
The Boss’ health had been declining but his death still caught us all off guard. I still remember feeling sick after hearing the news of his emergency trip to the hospital soon after waking up that morning. The Yankees were off for the All-Star break at the time, so they didn’t return home to honor their late owner until a few days later. Much like Bobby Murcer following Thurman Munson’s death in 1979, one player seemingly carried the Yankees to victory on this date. The Rays grabbed a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning on a Ben Zobrist RBI ground out, but Nick Swisher got that run back with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the eighth. A ninth inning rally ignited by a Curtis Granderson leadoff walk and capped off by Swisher’s walk-off single through the right side sent the Yankees home victorious, the first game of the post-George era. Swisher had also driven in a run earlier in the game, and his +0.745 WPA is the largest by any player in a single game at New Yankee Stadium.
It wasn’t just when or where, it was how. Jeter’s milestone hit a no-doubt homerun into the left field bleachers, arguably his hardest hit ball of the season. Teammates met him at the plate and the celebration lasted several minutes on the field, but Derek wasn’t done yet. He had his third career 5-for-5 game, and the fifth hit drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth. It was one of those moments that make this game beautiful, when an aging star steals a day from his prime and reminds us of their past greatness.
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I think these seven games are the best candidates, but if you disagree and think another was the greatest in New Stadium history, then tell us about it in the comments. Thanks in advance for voting.