The Jorge Posada Game

Fan Confidence Poll: January 9th, 2012
Snakebitten
(Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

The Yankees had lost two in row, three of five, and four of seven. Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui were on the disabled list with wrist injuries and a neck strain kept Jason Giambi on the bench for the day. Coincidentally, he was mired in a 1-for-18 slump. Miguel Cairo started at first base, Andy Phillips at designated hitter. The Rangers were in town with their .283/.349/.454 team batting line, and Shawn Chacon was scheduled to get the ball for the Yankees even after taking a line drive off his left shin in his previous start. The date is May 16th, 2006.

Predictably, Chacon put the Yankees in an early hole. They were down two-zip before they even came to the plate, and six-zip when Joe Torre pulled Chacon with one out in the second. Long reliever Aaron Small’s second pitch was clobbered into the right field bleachers at the Old Stadium for a three-run homer. The Yankees managed to get one back when Cairo singled in Bernie Williams in the bottom half of the inning, but Small gave it right back in the top of third when Mark Teixeira doubled in the junior Gary Matthews.

This one had all the feel of a blowout, one of those inevitable games that occur during the course of a 162-game season. The Yankees were already down nine runs with three of their best offensive players on the sidelines, and the soft part of their bullpen was being thrown at the feet of one of the league’s best offenses. Their win expectancy at that point was two percent, and that felt a little generous. A comeback was unthinkable, but the Yankees and their de facto cleanup hitter had a different idea.

The chipping away officially started in the bottom of the third inning. Johnny Damon singled to start the frame and came around to score on Derek Jeter‘s double. Jeter managed to steal third before Alex Rodriguez popped out in foul territory, bringing Jorge Posada — that de facto cleanup hitter — to the plate. Posada worked the count full before singling back up the middle to drive in Jeter for the team’s third run. A seven-run deficit is still rather significant, but it’s better than a nine-run deficit. More importantly, the comeback wheels were in motion.

Small managed to keep the Rangers in check the next two innings, allowing his offense to chip away a little more in the fifth. Jeter led off the inning with a walk and went to third on A-Rod‘s double. Posada skied John Koronka’s 72nd pitch of the night to deep left field, but it stayed in the park for a sacrifice fly. Jeter trotted home and Alex moved over to third. Robinson Cano, batting fifth for just the third time in his career, plated A-Rod with an RBI ground out. Those two runs turned a 10-3 games into a 10-5 game and effectively ended Koronka’s day.

The Rangers started to make a little bit of noise in the top of the sixth, but Posada helped put an end to a potential rally. Small was lifted with two outs and Teixeira on first, as Torre went to the southpaw Ron Villone to face lefty swinging Blalock. Blalock clobbered Villone’s first pitch the other way to left. Melky Cabrera, playing in just his 12th career game, retrieved the ball and fired back towards the infield. Teixeira was running on contact with two outs and was chugging around third by the time Jeter made the relay throw. Posada received the ball at the plate, then received Teixeira’s left shoulder into his chest as he blocked the plate.

“It was pretty tough,” said Posada after the game. “That was probably the hardest I’ve ever been hit.”

Teixeira, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 lbs. at the time, was running at full speed and said afterward that a collision was his only play in that situation.

“It’s a tough play for a catcher, obviously, but he’s one of the best,” said Teixeira after the game. “He made a very nice play. I’m out if I just slide. Because of the timing of it, if I could have hit him to knock the ball loose, that was my only option to be safe.”

The play at the plate ended the inning and prevented the Rangers from piling on any more runs, and it seemed to inject some life into the offense. Jeter homered in the bottom half of the inning after Melky started the frame with a single and Damon followed with a walk. Suddenly it was a 10-8 game, and the Yankees kept coming after Joaquin Benoit replaced Scott Feldman.

A-Rod walked next, making it four straight batters to reach base to open the inning. Posada then drew a walk of his own to put the tying run on base, and he eventually moved over to third when Bernie doubled in a run to make it 10-9. Cairo slashed a single to left with two outs to score Posada and Williams, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run lead. The Yankees had come all the way back from nine runs down, tying the largest comeback in team history. Of course, the game was far from over.

That 11-10 lead was short-lived thanks to Scott Proctor, who started the seventh inning by walking Kevin Mench and giving up a two-run homer to Brad Wilkerson. Five pitches into the inning, the Yankees were down a run again. In the bottom half of the inning, Damon and Jeter again applied pressure by starting things off with back-to-back singles. A-Rod grounded back to the pitcher, but it allowed Jeter to move up a base and put runners at second and third with one out for Posada.

Jorge worked the count to 2-2 against the forgettable Rick Bauer, then lifted the fifth pitch of the encounter towards left-center. It wasn’t deep enough for a homer and it didn’t even drop in for a hit, but his second sacrifice fly scored Damon and re-tied the game. Two-hundred and seventy four pitches, 39 base runners, and 24 runs into the game, the Yankees and Rangers were tied after seven.

The eighth inning went by without a hitch thanks to Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Mahay, the only pitchers in the game to record a 1-2-3 inning. Farnsworth was the only guy to appear in the game and not allow someone to reach base. Go figure.

Tied at a dozen in the top of the ninth, Torre gave the ball to Mariano Rivera. On this crazy night, not even Mo was safe. Mench opened the inning with a broken bat bloop single, then pinch-runner Adrian Brown moved to second on Wilkerson’s bunt. After a walk to Mark DeRosa, Rod Barajas drove in Brown with another broken bat bloop hit to give the Rangers a 13-12 lead. That put the game in the hands of closer Akinori Otsuka with the top of the order due up.

As he had done all night, Damon got things started with a leadoff single that was nothing more than a ground ball that took a bad hop past Teixeira at first. “This field gets very choppy,” Teixeira later said. “The last one almost hit me in the hand. I just kind of got my hand up there to block it.”

Damon moved up to second on Jeter’s ground ball back to the pitcher, the first time all game the Cap’n failed to reach base. A-Rod nearly tied to game with a line drive back up the middle, but Matthews reeled the ball in to bring Posada to the plate with two outs, the team’s final chance.

(Kathy Willens/AP)

Otsuka was a fastball-splitter pitcher, and he went after Jorge with splitter after splitter. The first three were down below the zone for balls, then Posada took the get-me-over fastball for an autostrike one. Otsuka went back to that fastball in the 3-1 count, and Jorge was looking for it.

“I was just hoping it was out of the park so we wouldn’t have to keep playing,” said the Yankees’ backstop after the game. “I didn’t want to play anymore. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone.”

As Jorge said, the ball was gone off the bat, a walk-off two-run shot deep into the right field bleachers. Posada rounded the bases and hopped on home plate with his hands in the air, mobbed by his teammates as the comeback bow was officially tied.

In terms of win probability added, good ol’ WPA, it was the greatest regular season game of Posada’s career at +0.93. It’s not particularly close either. He went 2-for-3 with the walk-off homer, a walk, and two sacrifice flies. Jorge scored the tying run in the sixth, drove in the tying run in the seventh, then won the game in the ninth. He also went 1-for-1 protecting the plate, and years later he and Teixeira would share a laugh over the collision after becoming teammates.

Aside from the game-tying double off Pedro Martinez in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, this game was the first that jumped to mind after I’d heard about Posada’s intention to retire over the weekend. It was just so perfectly Jorge. He helped drive the offense with his patented power and patience, and he took a pounding behind the plate when he needed.

Posada did exactly that for the Yankees for a decade and half, but his contributions often went under the radar because of others on the team. In Game Seven it was Aaron Boone. In Game Three of the 2001 ALDS — when his solo homer accounted for the only run of the game — it was Derek Jeter’s flip play. There was always something that stole the spotlight from Posada, but not in this game. The injuries allowed his star to shine as he carried his team to one of the biggest comebacks in franchise history.

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Fan Confidence Poll: January 9th, 2012
Snakebitten
  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    “….and that was the only good defensive play of Posada’s career.” – The MSM arguing his HOF chances

    • steve s

      It was probably the start of his concussion issues.

  • Alibaba

    This could not have been an easy decision, given his competitive streak. However, this was the correct one. Thank you, Jorge. Enjoy your retirement.

  • Donny

    Good read. Quick question – where does the WPA stand for that game in April of last year against Baltimore where Jorge homered to tie it up in the bottom of the ninth? I only ask because, much like you, I had immediately thought of 2003, this Texas game and then the Baltimore game as some of his biggest hits (considering the gravity of the situations).

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      It’s number 23 at .310 WPA: http://www.baseball-reference......i?id=iKXdi

      It’s not even his biggest WPA game of the season, the third game of the season against Detroit was his biggest.

  • TrimThoseSideburns

    I was watching this game during the final week of senior year in college. A bunch of us were gathered around the TV, drinking a few, and reminiscing about those four years. We erupted when Jorge hit that homer.

  • ansky

    I remember this game so clearly. That night I had to visit my mom in a hospital where she was put with early onset dementia. My wife in trying to help me get out of my funk suggested that we get a sitter and go to a sports bar to watch. We got there and the Yankees were getting killed and it just seemed apropos. We stuck around for the end, since we had already paid the sitter. It was one of those great sports moments that takes your mind off something crappy in your life, and lets you have a few minutes of peace and joy. Jorge will be missed.

    • Mister Delaware

      Good stuff.

      • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

        +1. Thanks for sharing. Very good. Very good.

    • murakami

      ansky, what a great post.

      The Yankees and moments of our lives always intertwine. For me, it’s somewhat wrenching when a Core Four leaves the fold, since it ties back to those 90s teams and having shared all that with my dad.

      I was at that game, and I remember thinking for a second they might need a stretcher to get Posada off the field.

      Jorge es un campeador.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    Not sure if I really want to know the answer to these or not (considering how the season went for Jorge)…but if Posada is indeed retiring, what were his final plays in the field and at the plate as Yankee great?

  • Dan

    I remember being so frustrated with this game that I walked around the city, refusing to watch the game. I was 20 and still not able to realize a blow out was just one game.
    Periodically on my walk I would pass a sports bar and see a TV and always look for a score. By my 4th mile I, the Yanks were into the 9th and I saw Posada’s HR. I was still mad, but significantly less so. Frustrated with the pitching. gleeful with Jorge.
    Going to miss his bat a lot. glad he walked away a Yankee.

  • dean

    Great post!

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    This game shows only part of Jorge’s greatness. He was always underrated because of so many other stars that we had on the team during his tenure. However, it must be noted that when he was injured, the Yankees were never the same team. Turning to another game in which the Yankees had a comeback like this was in Reggie Jackson’s time against the RS. I don’t remember the year but Roger Clemens was leading like 10 to 1. But we came back.

  • mike

    IMO he is the perfect example of a guy who drove you crazy to watch – with his baserunning issues, his comical flailing at an off-speed pitch, game calling – but who will be sorely missed as the years go along.

    He was a perfect piece of the Yanks offense, as while he was overmatched higher in the order, he was the perfect 6/7 hitter to lengthen the lineup and wear the pitcher out as the game went on, plus his switch-hitting always made him a matchup problem.

    Surely not a HOF player, but a consistant, predictable all-star caliber player who will be hard to replace

    • Monteroisdinero

      Agree with all of this except the last 6 words.

  • Comfortably Numb

    Either my Google fu is lacking today, or it’s surprisingly hard to find a functioning video of that Posada walkoff HR.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I looked, but no luck. MLB.com took the video down, which makes it infinitely harder.

  • mike

    Re Posada and the HOF – anyone have access to any research/ info comparing him to Howard?

    Numbers don’t lie and Posada was a more consistant OBP/ power threat, but IMO with YS1 being death to Howard’s batting approach until late in his career (look at how many triples he hit, likely into Death Valley) and his game calling/ defensive value, I wonder who the “experts ” would chose if starting a team

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Interesting comparisson. Howard was probably better at his peak, but Jorge did it for a longer time frame.

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        Howard had the misfortune of having Yogi Berra in front of him and because he was black the Yankees did not bring him up earlier. I saw him play and he was as good or better than Posada offensively and much better defensively. Howard could hit the ball with power to all fields and he could hit for average and play a decent outfield. I have said it before but the best Yankee catchers have been Yogi, Dickey,Munson, Howard and Posada in that order, in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

    Great article man. Really cool to be able to read through and remember that night.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    My favorite Posada moment is a more personal one, and that’s meeting him and Laura during an autograph signing at Montclair St. when the “Fit Home Team” book came out. We were about tenth in line, maybe, and Jorge began the signings by taking his time, smiling, etc. When he was told to hurry it up, he visibly got nervous, put his head down, and just started signing away. I got a smile out of him. Laura remained the picture of composure, though, and was amazing. I will always treasure my autographed copy of “Fit Home Team” in which Jorge Posada mispelled his own fucking name. :)

    • Monteroisdinero

      Pressure got to him.

  • Adam

    I still remember Jorgie’s first game coming in as a skinny pinch runner at the end of the 1995 season (still remarkable to think of). Unlike many, I never found Posada to be nearly as frustrating as he apparently effected others. For all his defensive and base running limitations, his bat was what mattered. Mostly, he was someone who just really cared, was passionate and seemed to enjoy being a Yankee. This may also be why some of us gave him the benefit of the doubt when he took himself out of the lineup this year…it was a dumb move, but was driven from that place in Posada that we all respected. As a fan since 1980, one who suffered his prime younger years with the real lean, embarrassing Yankees…I always really appreciated Posada’s dedication. And as I get older and see another one of the players that I remember from square one retiring, I can only appreciate Posada for his strengths and accept the limitations for what they were.

  • Shamus

    Great, great post

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/imagesofthegame randym

    Possibly the best game ever. I remember it like it was yesterday. Probably because YES has rerun it so often. ;-)

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    God what a game. Have to admit though that there are a shockingly large number of guys in the recap whose names make me throw up in my mouth a little. There was a lot of fodder on the mid aught Yanks.

  • bankers hours

    Jorge will fall in the same categories as Pettitte and Bernie. Incredible Yankee careers but just and I mean just short of the HOF. Podada is arguable vs Carter (posada was a better hitter and won 5 rings) Bernie is arguable vs Puckett and Pettitte is arguable vs a number of pitchers in the old days who were accumulators but didn’t come close to winning big games and playoff games like Pettitte. All, however, will fall short. Jeter and Rivera will be first time Hall of Famers with Rivera, in my opinion, a unanamous choice. The next Hall of Famer after these two will be Cano.

  • WayneD

    Mike,

    Thank you for a wonderful article on a truly great Yankee.

    On suggestion, though:

    Could RAB post a “Thank You, Jorge!” card for all Yankee fans to “sign” that you could then send on to Jorge?

    As a lifelong Yankee fan, I’d love to be able to express my sincere thanks to Jorge for contributing so greatly to Yankee history, both on and off the field.

    I’ve been lucky enough to see four great Yankee catchers play: Berra (near the end of his career), Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada. (Sorry, I’m not old enough to have included Dickey in my personal list.)

    Jorge did a magnificent job of adding to the Yankees’ track record of fielding great catchers. If he doesn’t make the HOF, which I think he should, he certainly deserves a place in the Yankees’ HOF. Thank you, Jorge!