The 15-9 comeback win over the Red Sox in Fenway Park back in April was absolutely amazing, but Saturday’s comeback win over the Athletics was the best win of the season. It had everything from bitter disappointment to incredible highs, multiple times as well. It was a game that championship caliber teams win, if I do say so myself.
A Little English
There’s only one way to recap this game, and that’s backwards. The Yankees and A’s were tied at nine after 13 innings, and one of the few pitchers left in the bullpen was the imminently hittable Cory Wade. Things looked pretty dire, so on Twitter I proudly proclaimed that…
If Cory Wade tosses up a zero, Yankees win in the bottom half.
— Mike Axisa (@mikeaxisa) September 22, 2012
Well, Wade did toss up a zero, and the Yankees did win in the bottom half. The game-winning rally all started with a little ground ball single from Eric Chavez, who entered the game off the bench like so many others. Melky Mesa made his big league debut as a pinch-runner, and as you’d expect with no outs, Derek Jeter bunted him over to scoring position. Considering how hot Ichiro Suzuki has been, it was an easy decision to bunt. Unfortunately the Athletics quickly issued ball four intentionally, pressing Alex Rodriguez into the big spot. He came through with the game-winning single … until Mesa missed third base while running and had to retreat to the bag. The game was over, but the rookie made a rookie mistake at the most inopportune of times.
That brought Robinson Cano to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, but he took some bad hacks and grounded back to pitcher Tyson Ross. Ross made a nice flopping play to get the force at home for the second out. Not for nothing, but Robbie’s been invisible at late. The Yankees need him to pick it up. Anyway, that left it up to Eduardo Nunez, the team’s third third baseman of the day. He fell behind in the count 1-0 before hitting a weak ground off the end of the bat to first to end the inning … until Brandon Moss booted it for the walk-off error. After all that, the game was decided on a routine grounder. As Athletics manager Bob Melvin would say after the game, the ball just had a little English.
You can’t have an amazing win like this without a little heartbreak. Freddy Garcia, pitching for the first time in what feels like an eternity, was the proverbial last man out of the bullpen and gave the team three shutout innings — he needed Steve Pearce to made a great diving stop at first to escape a bases loaded jam in the 11th — before completely imploding the second time through the order. Jonny Gomes hit a two-run homer to break the five-all tie in the 13th, then Yoenis Cespedes tacked on another run with a solo homer. Justin Thomas took over for Garcia and promptly gave up a solo homer to Chris Carter to give the A’s a four-run lead.
At that point, the game looked to be over. Scoring four runs is tough to do in any inning, nevermind the bottom of the 13th. I would have been happy if the Yankees managed to bring the tying run to the plate just so they didn’t go down without a fight, and three singles later they had the bases loaded with nobody out. Pretty good, I’d say. Ichiro scored the first run of the inning on a wild pitch, then Nunez plated the second with a sacrifice fly. With Cano at second and one out, Raul Ibanez unloaded on a flat 89 mph sinker from Pat Neshek in a 3-1 count. The ball landed about halfway up the second deck in right, a classic no-doubt Ibanez blast to complete the comeback and tie the game back up. It was a jaw-dropping homer. Clutch, unexpected, and blissful. Here was the reaction in the dugout.
We’ll get to Ivan Nova in a second, but right now all you need to know is that he failed to complete even three innings of work. With the right-handed trio of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, and David Phelps all unavailable due to their recent workloads, asking the bullpen to soak up that many innings was not a good thing.
Clay Rapada cleaned up Nova’s bases loaded mess in the third with a 1-2-3 double play before allowing two runs in the fourth. Derek Lowe took over for the lefty and pitched well, allowing just one run — after he’d left the game — in 2.1 innings. The first few innings were chaotic, but Lowe really stepped up and calmed things down in the middle innings. Boone Logan allowed the runner he inherited from Lowe to score on a sacrifice fly before running into a bases loaded jam in the eighth. Cody Eppley bailed him out by getting Cespedes to fly out. There were like, ten big outs in this game, and that was surely one of them.
Joba was the closer du jour — I suspect it was him or Logan depending on the matchups — and tossed in a perfect ninth inning. He gave way to Garcia in the tenth. All told, the bullpen allowed six runs on ten hits and four walks in 11.2 innings. They struck out nine, and most of that damage came in the four-run 13th inning. When it was all said and done, the only arm left in the bullpen was Adam Warren, who hasn’t thrown in weeks. Even with the expanded rosters, the Yankees were pushed to their pitching limit.
Ivan Nova Owes The Offense
In his second start back from the DL, Nova was not good at all. The first three hitters he faced hit doubles for a quick two-run deficit, then Stephen Drew tacked on a solo homer in the third. He walked two and allowed seven of the 14 men he faced to reach base. Considering how well he pitched against the Rays last weekend, this was a big disappointment. Nova was back to allowing extra-base hits by the bucketful and laboring through each inning.
Luckily for him, the offense bailed him. Travis Blackley couldn’t locate his curveball at all, and the Yankees scored three runs in the first inning to take a two-run lead. Ichiro hit a solo homer, Cano singled in a run (great slide by A-Rod to avoid the tag), and Andruw Jones drew a bases loaded walk. One inning later, Cano made it 4-2 when he trotted home on a wild pitch. The Bombers plated their fifth run in the fifth when Ibanez came off the bench and hit a pinch-hit solo homer. He was replacing Casey McGehee against a right-hander and had come into the game in a 0-for-18 rut. It was his first homer since August 5th, forty-four team games ago.
Let’s get the historic stuff out of the way first. This was the second time in franchise history that the Yankees came back from down four runs in extra innings to tie the game. Not sure when the other instance was, but safe to say it was not recent. The 13th inning was the first time in Athletics history they hit three homers in one extra inning and also the first time they blew a four-run lead in extras. That’s pretty great.
The game as a whole was a fundamental nightmare. Blackley got called for a balk in the first, several outfielders lost the ball in the sun, and three total errors were charged (all by Oakland). Cano let a dinky ground ball get through the right side in the 11th because he slowed up thinking Nick Swisher would reel it in at first, and Swisher didn’t make it to second when Josh Reddick misplayed a fly ball because he didn’t hustle out of the box. All of that is on top of Mesa’s misstep. Tom Emanski would not have approved.
Ibanez was the player of the game and not just because of the two homers. He dunked a bloop into shallow center and turned it into a double with pure hustle, beating the throw from Cespedes. He was running on contact on Martin’s ground ball to second and was thrown out at the plate later in the inning, but not before plowing into catcher Derek Norris. Ibanez went 3-for-4 off the bench including the two big homers and the hustle double. Great day for him after a mostly miserable second half.
Jeter did extend his hitting streak to 16 games in the sixth, so he didn’t need extra innings to keep the streak alive. Ichiro had three more hits including the homer, but was also thrown out on the bases by Cespedes for the second straight day. He’s gone 14-for-20 (.700) with three doubles, two homers, and five steals in the last five games. Ho hum. A-Rod (three), Cano (two), Ibanez (three), and Swisher (two) all had multiple hits as well. The only position player not to appear in the game was Frankie Cervelli, which sucks for him.
Pinch-runner Chris Dickerson deserves credit for stealing second in the ninth even though his teammates couldn’t bring him home. The Yankees still managed to go 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position despite scoring ten runs, and that nonsense needs to stop. Curtis Granderson replaced Andruw in the third inning and drew a pair of walks but also couldn’t get the go-ahead run in from third with one out in the eighth — he popped up in foul territory. Jayson Nix singled and bunted, one of three sacrifices on the day. One was Ichiro in the sixth with a one-run lead, which was crazy. Dude is the hottest hitter on the planet, swing the bat!
The Yankees have won seven straight, their second longest winning streak of the season behind the ten-gamer in June. They’ve also won a dozen of their last 16 games, which is pretty cool.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles beat the pathetic Red Sox again, so they remain one back in the loss column. The magic number to clinch the division did drop to the 11 though, and the magic number to clinch a postseason berth is just six. It could be five by the end of the night depending on what happens with the Angels.