MLB: Yankees walk off with yet another win over Twins
By Erik Boland
NEW YORK — At this rate, the New York Yankees might just walk off with it.
For the third straight game, they beat the Twins in walk-off fashion after trailing in the late innings, this time on Johnny Damon’s home run into the second deck in rightfield on Jesse Crain’s 3-and-2 pitch with one out in the 10th inning Sunday.
The victory, the Yankees’ season-best fifth straight, marked the first time since Aug. 27-29, 1972, that the Yankees have won three straight games in walk-off fashion. (Of course, that expression wasn’t used back then.)
“It is amazing,” Joe Girardi said. “I’ve never been a part of something like this, three in a row.”
“Our team has a lot of confidence right now, regardless of the score,” said Derek Jeter, who had two hits. “Whatever inning it is, we feel we can come back.”
Sunday was the Yankees’ 14th comeback victory of the season. It came two days after Melky Cabrera’s two-out, two-run single capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 win and one day after Alex Rodriguez’s two-run home run in the 11th inning produced a 6-4 win after the Yankees trailed 4-3 in the eighth. They trailed 2-0 Sunday before scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh to tie it.
“You feel like somebody’s going to get the big hit,” said Rodriguez, whose home run to leftfield — a section closer to centerfield and several rows higher than Saturday’s game-winner — pulled the Yankees within 2-1 Sunday. “You don’t know who.”
Sunday’s walk-off star was Damon, whose 10th home run was just the latest of several crucial late-inning hits this season, including a three-run shot in the seventh inning that gave the Yankees a 5-3 victory in Baltimore the previous Sunday. That was part of Damon’s 10-game streak with an extra-base hit, a streak that ended Friday night when he was ejected in the third inning.
“Johnny’s done a lot of this for us this year,” Girardi said. “Big hits late in the game, and this is just another one.”
Girardi said Damon “doesn’t ever squeeze the bat” in pressure situations, but Damon spoke more broadly afterward.
“That’s the bottom line, just go out there and win at all costs,” Damon said. “We have five in a row; hopefully we can come out and win tomorrow.”
Resting on Damon’s clubhouse chair was a faux gold WWE belt, a gift to Damon from one of A.J. Burnett’s kids that, of late, has been making the rounds in the clubhouse.
“We pass this along to whatever player helps us win,” Damon said. “Melky had it two nights ago, it went to Alex and I actually just got it back.”
Rodriguez smiled later when asked about the belt. “We gave it to him , he owns it,” Rodriguez said. “I hope I get it back this week sometime.”
Several players could have been considered belt-worthy Sunday. Burnett — who for the third straight day smashed a whipped-cream pie into the face of the walk-off hero as he awaited a postgame TV interview — picked up his his fifth no-decision in his last six outings but allowed only two runs in 62/3 innings. Hideki Matsui, who pinch hit a key double Saturday, doubled Sunday after Rodriguez’s homer and scored on Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to tie it at 2-2. And although Mark Teixeira went hitless after his 4-for-4 performance Saturday, he saved a run in the eighth.
The Twins loaded the bases with one out against Jonathan Albaladejo and Girardi called on Brett Tomko to face Denard Span. With the infield in, Teixeira dived to his right to rob Span of a hit and threw home from his knees over a diving Tomko for the second out. Tomko then got Matt Tolbert to foul out to catcher Kevin Cash.
“There are a ton of days where you aren’t going to get it done offensively, but defensively you can get it done every single day,” said Teixeira, a two-time Gold Glove winner.
The Yankees nearly won the game in the ninth but Brett Gardner — inserted as a pinch runner after Nick Swisher drew a leadoff walk — was tagged out by catcher Joe Mauer as he tried to beat Mauer to an unguarded home plate on an infield single off pitcher Jose Mijares’ glove, a strange play in a strange series.
“It was a great game for us,” Jeter said. “I like what I see from our team right now.”