“I feel like we robbed the bank tonight – twice,” A-Rod said. “They may have played the better game but we won.”
(N.Y. Daily News)
Alex Rodriguez led off the top of the eighth inning last night with his team trailing 4-2. Jaret Wright had allowed all four runs and didn’t make it out of the sixth. Meanwhile, after scoring seven runs on just four hits on Tuesday night, the Yanks had collected nine hits in the first seven innings with just two runs to show for it (both runs scored on Andy Phillips’ first inning single, his first of three hits). Francisco Cordero faced Rodriguez now, and kept throwing fastballs away. The count went full and Cordero went away again, but not far enough, and Rodriguez stroked a line drive over the center field fence onto the grass to bring the Yankees closer. A nice early birthday gift for Rodriguez (2-5) who turns 31 today.
Bernie Williams followed with a walk and then Phillips dunked a single into left. Melky Cabrera was asked to bunt the runners over. He stabbed weakly at the first pitch and fouled it off. According to manager Joe Torre after the game, the bunt sign was then taken off. But Cabrera missed it and he lunged again, to no avail. To make matters worse, he attempted to bunt again on the very next pitch. He fouled off a couple of pitches and worked the count even and then slapped a double into the left-center field gap (the outfield had been playing in). Suddenly, the Yanks were ahead by a run, and Larry Bowa was pumping his fist and shouting at Cabrera. Sal Fasano, who reluctantly had roughly 20 inches of hair cut off before the game, bunted Cabrera to third. And Melky came home on a wild pitch from Cabrera.
Everything appeared to be in order. But Kyle Farnsworth could not get loose, bothered by a stiff back. Torre absolutely wanted to stay away from using the over-worked Scott Proctor, so rookie TJ Beam started the eighth. But he could not put away the Rangers’ lead off hitter, Gary Matthews, Jr, who drew a nine-pitch walk. Beam, a lanky right hander, then fell behind Ian Kinsler. Another base on balls was unacceptable so Beam’s 3-1 offering was right over the plate. Kinsler drove the ball to right center field. It skipped over the fence for a ground rule double. Torre, furious, walked to mound and summoned Proctor, then returned to the bench and simmered.
Michael Young drove Proctor’s first pitch–a flat slider–back through the box for a two-run single and just like that the game was tied. While it would be the only solid hit against Proctor, the fatigued reliever gave up three more consecutive singles. Suddenly, the Rangers not only had only regained the lead, but they had the bases loaded with nobody out. Enter Shawn Chacon.
Mark DeRosa whiffed for the first out and then a bit of good fortune saved the Bombers’ bacon. Scott Wilkerson’s hard line drive up the middle found its way directly into Chacon’s unsuspecting glove for the second out. Chacon turned to third, pivoted to second and finally threw to first and caught pinch-runner Jerry Hairston off the bag to complete the double play. The sequence looked as if it was happening in slow-motion. Somehow, the Yanks escaped only trailing by a run.
Derek Jeter, who had another good offensive game, lined Akinori Otsuka’s first pitch into center field for a single. Jason G’bomb-bee, 0-4 at that point, then lofted a two-run dinger into the right field stands. Game Over. Mariano Rivera worked around a two-out single in the ninth, to record the save. Final Score: Yanks 8, Rangers 7. It was only the third save Otsuka had blown all year, his second to the Yanks.
A fine, dramatic win for the Yanks, particularly considering how the bullpen lost the lead in the eighth.
“I said to someone, ‘I must be ready to retire,'” Joe Torre said with a smile after it was over. “This is the first time my stomach has burned in the last 11 years.”
Coupled with a Red Sox loss and the Twins’ victory over the White Sox, the Yankees now trail Boston by a game-and-a-half in the AL East, and lead the Wildcard spot by a half-a-game.