“Payback is a pitch that lands in the bullpen.” — Yankee play-by-play man, Michael Kay
Before he signed with the Yankees I knew that Mark Teixeira was a very good player, even a great player, but I didn’t have much of a sense of him. He seemed professional and aware, unremarkable and sterile. My wife said he looked like a white Barry Bonds. That was his defining quality to me. Cliff ranted and raved all winter long that the Yankees needed to sign Teixeira or else the balance of power would remain in Boston for years to come and I had no reason not to believe him. Teixeira slumped in April but has otherwise been a marvel; a brilliant and exciting fielder, a wonderful hitter, and a spirited competitor. I didn’t figure on the competitor part–which we first glimpsed against Carlos Gomez a few weeks back–and didn’t know how much fun he would be to watch.
Teixeira had his signature moment as a Yankee on Tuesday night when he broke up a double play after being plunked in the rump by Vicente Padilla. It was the kind of play that inspires columnists and is later referred to by announcers as a “turning point.” It earned Teixiera a standing ovation and more importantly led to six extra runs as the Yankees pounded the Rangers, 12-3.
It was hard not to think back to 1998 when Armando Benetiz hit Tino Martinez square in the back. The brawl, the back-to-back Yankee home runs and the win. That was one of the most memorable and satisfying regular season games I’ve ever seen. I don’t know that this was as juicy (nobody threw a punch), or how good this Yankee team will be, but it sure felt good. Damn good.
Padilla and AJ Burnett matched wits in a suck-a-thon shoot-out for the first few innings. The Yanks let Padilla off the hook once and then twice while Burnett was touched for a three-run dinger in the third. The next inning, with the score tied at three, the Yanks had runners at the corners with one out when Padilla drilled Teixeria in the ass. This after hitting Teixeira in the second inning. Teixeira slammed his bat down and cried “Bullshit,” looking hard and angry at Padilla, a known red-ass who looks like a cheap, greasy bad guy from a Sergio Leone western. I don’t imagine they were the best of friends when they were teammates.
Alex Rodriguez, who grounded out with the bases loaded in the second, fell behind and then hit a ground ball to the second baseman, Ian Kinsler. Tailor-made. Teixeira charged to second and up-ended the shortstop, Elvis Andrus, causing the relay throw to be late. Rodriguez burned down the line and just beat the throw. Derek Jeter scored. Teixeira jogged off the field, his cherry-bursting, gritty, true Yankee moment. The cheers continued for Jeter, who scored the 1,500th run of his career. Next Robinson Cano singled chasing Padilla. Jorge Posada greeted Derek Holland with a base hit to left and then Godzilla crushed a three-run bomb to right and Teixeira screamed “That’s what I’m talkin’ about” on the dugout steps.
High fives all around. Burnett chucked one at Nelson Cruz’s noggin the next inning and both benches were warned. Then Burnett settled down and didn’t allow another run. He went seven, walked one and struck out eight. The Yanks poured it on–Posada, who had three hits, crushed a moon shot that came close to reaching the upper deck in right field in the sixth. Jeter also had three hits. But it was Teixeira who was and is the story of the moment for the Bombers.
We’ve got ourselves a keeper.