By Chad Jennings
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, second from left, pats Didi Gregorius on the head after the Yankees defeated the Texas Rangers 9-7 on Gregorius’s ninth-inning, walk-off, solo homer in a baseball game in New York, Wednesday, June 29, 2016.
At some point in the third inning, I decided to be a little snarky and dismissive on Twitter (because that’s the place for such things). Here what I wrote: If Masahiro Tanaka isn’t very good and Carlos Beltran isn’t playing, it’s honestly hard to imagine a way for the Yankees to win.
I stand by that.
Nothing about this win was remotely imaginable.
- The Yankees had scored six runs in an inning only twice this year. One was in Colorado — where runs flow like water — and the other was in the second game of the year. They hadn’t score nine runs in a ninth inning since 2010 (and this team isn’t scoring runs at a 2010 pace).
- Rangers closer Sam Dyson had blown a save only once this season. That was more than two months ago. He hadn’t allowed this many runs in a game in more than a year (when he allowed four earned also at Yankee Stadium). Four earned runs off Dyson were as many as he’d allowed in his past 26 relief appearances combined.
- According to Elias, this was the Yankees’ first win when trailing by five runs or more in the eighth inning or later since 2009. It was their first win trailing by four or more in the ninth inning since 2010.
- According to the Yankees, Brian McCann became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth or later when trailing by at least three runs since Shelley Duncan in 2007. And seriously, who predicts any game is going to end with a Shelley Duncan reference (though it’s awesome when they do)?
“It all started with just Ref getting on base,” Didi Gregorius said. “Everybody is getting on base, and then Mac came up big for us to tie the game. We never gave up. That’s the best part of the game, right there. We never gave up. You’ve got to play the game to the end. That’s what we’re doing, and hopefully we’re doing this right now and then go with our best foot forward from now on.”
Seven Yankees came to the plate that ninth inning. The only one who didn’t reach was Alex Rodriguez, who hit an absolute rocket for a tough-luck out. Otherwise: Single, walk, single, home run, walk, home run.
“Look, we lost a heart breaker the first night against these guys,” Rodriguez said. “And a tough one last night. It was huge to come back tonight and have a chance to spilt tomorrow. … Big win, probably the biggest win of the year for us.”
Said Gregorius: “I’ll say the biggest is yet to come. I think we’re a team trying to play better, so a lot of stuff is going to happen. We’re going to play better baseball from now on, so a lot more to come.”
Does this win mean anything? It’s a great win, no doubt. The odds were definitely stacked against the Yankees, and after losing three in a row — after watching Masahiro Tanaka struggle and knowing Carlos Beltran was on the bench — there was every reason to give up on game. As early as the third inning, it really was hard to imagine a way the Yankees could win it. But when they won it, they won it in style.
Up next: The tall task of making this mean something more than one good night and one good win.
“I don’t think you temper your enthusiasm,” Joe Girardi said. “But as I said earlier, I don’t ever get too high or too low. Every day is different, and you have to go out and do your job. But they should be excited in there. That’s a big win for us and that’s a win that we really had to fight for and we fought late. So they should be excited and hopefully the emotion carries over.”
With bad knee, McCann goes deep twice
Second two-homer game of the season for Brian McCann, and they’ve each come in the past week and a half. This one, though, came on a night when McCann’s left knee noticeably gave him trouble. After the first home run in the eighth inning, McCann grabbed as his left knee and stopped short as he came around first base. He was checked by trainer Steve Donohue as soon as he got to the bench, but he stayed in the game.
He’s been playing through patellar tendonitis.
“I’ve been dealing with it for a little bit,” he said. “When I got to first base, something grabs. … Rounding the bases it felt like a thing, but just kinda grabbed on me. But after I squatted, I was alright.”
It’s doubtful McCann was going to play tomorrow anyway because the Yankees have a day game.
“We made sure he was all right (before sending him back in),” Girardi said. “He went and squatted. He’s fine. That’s not abnormal for a catcher to have those kind of things.”
Tanaka ties season-high for runs
According to the pitching line, this was probably Masahiro Tanaka’s worst start of the year, but the Yankees seemed to focus on the fact most of the damage came in one inning and half of the runs came on one hit.
“I thought overall my stuff was OK,” Tanaka said. “It just goes back to that third inning. If I could have been able to locate better and do a better job … it would have been better. Overall, I think my stuff was pretty good today.”
Tanaka has matched his season high with seven strikeouts in each of his past two starts.
“The one inning that he gave up the four runs, he just left some balls up,” Girardi said. “He left some balls over the middle of the plate. Some balls backed up on him, and they made him pay. He kind of settled down after that and he kept them in check until he gave up another run. It was not his best outing, but after giving up five in three innings, he kind of kept it there for a while, and that helped us out.”
Cessa gets first career win
With three strong innings out of the bullpen, Luis Cessa picked up his first career win. He allowed one run on a solo homer, but otherwise he walked two and struck out two. His fastball regularly got up to 95-96 mph. Cessa has allowed four runs in 11.2 career innings, and each of those runs has come on a solo home run.
“Really good,” Girardi said. “He saved our bullpen and kept us still in the game. He did a nice job. For him, it’s got to be rewarding. It’s his first big league win, and it was won in style.”
Odds and ends
- This was the first walk-off home run for Didi Gregorius in pro ball, but he did hit one once for the Dutch national team. They don’t call him Sir Didi for nothing.
- Four time in his career that Brian McCann hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning or later. His most recent came in 2012 with Atlanta. He had never hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning or later when trailing by three runs.
- This was Chase Headley‘s third multi-RBI game of the season and his second of the home stand. He has five homers and 18 RBI in 37 home games this season. Noe homers and three RBI in 33 road games.
- With two hits and a walk, Starlin Castro reached base three times and collected his 19th multi-hit game of the season.
- Masahiro Tanaka threw a season-high 110 pitches for the second time in his past three starts.
We’ll give the final word to Gregorius:
“We won, so that’s (the best) part of the game right there. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we’re trying to do. Especially the last couple of weeks and into the All-Star break (and) All-Star Game in a good note and keeping going with our best foot forward after the All-Star.”