Yanks savor an absolutely miraculous victory
There is an old saying among baseball writers that the sentence you never want to write is something along the lines of “Each side scored four runs in the 13th.”
It is naturally a reference to an unusually long game that seems as if it will never end. Well, I am getting to write that sentence today. The Yankees and the Athletics, both locked into tight races for postseason berths, got tangled in an old fashioned marathon Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
The game ended five hours and 43 minutes after the first pitch and memorably for the Yankees. Frankly, this was nothing short of a miracle. They blew early leads of 4-2 and 5-4 and were left for dead in the 13th when it appeared Oakland had taken an insurmountable lead. But the Yankees would simply not quit and because of that emerged with their most improbable victory this year.
That the winning run of the 10-9, 14-inning victory scored on an error is immaterial. The Yankees earned this victory, which kept them one game ahead of the Orioles in the American League East. The Birds had won yet another extra-inning game earlier at Fenway Park, 9-6, to raise their record in overtime games to 16-2. The Yankees improved to 5-3 in extras, which gives you an idea what kind of season Baltimore is having.
“It was an unbelievable comeback,” Yanks manager Joe Girardi said in the understatement of the season.
The back-and-forth game reached its zenith in the 13th when, that’s right, each side scored four runs. Oakland pounded three home runs in the top half, two off Freddy Garcia and one off Justin Thomas as the Yankees were well into a depleted bullpen.
But then, so were the A’s. Lefthander Pedro Figueroa could not get an out as the Yanks filled the bases in the bottom of the 13th on singles by Ichiro Suzuki, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. Righthander Pat Neshek, a side-winder, wild-pitched in a run and gave up another on a sacrifice fly by Eduardo Nunez.
Raul Ibanez, who had a remarkable game, pushed it into the 14th with a two-run home run. His first homer of the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth unlocked a 4-4 score. In the 12th, Ibanez led off with a double as he looked very much like the Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson, who always broke out of the batter’s box after a hit with an idea of taking an extra base. Ibanez was out at the plate on a contact play later in the inning. There was a lot of contact as he slammed into catcher Derek Norris.
Cory Wade, the Yankees’ ninth pitcher of the game, supplied a scoreless 14th and was rewarded with a winning decision when the Yanks rallied once more in the bottom half. Eric Chavez started it with a single off righthander Tyson Ross. Melky Mesa made his major-league debut as a pinch runner and would figure dramatically later in the rally.
Derek Jeter bunted Mesa to second. After Suzuki was walked intentionally, Rodriguez singled sharply through the middle. Those remaining in the Stadium crowd of 44,026 figured the game was over and were stunned when Mesa did not score. The problem was that he missed third base rounding it and by the time he went back to tag it did not have the momentum to come home even though A’s center fielder Yeonis Cespedes hesitated before throwing the ball.
The situation loomed large when Ross made a graceful fielding play flagging down a high chop and recovering to get a force at the plate for the second out. Nunez followed with a grounder to the right side that behaved like a cue ball with a lot of English on it and clanged off the glove of first baseman Brandon Moss for a tough error but an error nonetheless as Ichiro trotted home.
The scene that followed was something out of a World Series. The Yankees mobbed the field the way they have over the years when a championship was secured. They are a long way from that, of course, but as the Yankees continue their march toward another invitation to the postseason dance they will look back on this game for inspiration.