The Yankees are a year and a half removed from their last World Series title, but the comeback they mounted against the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night in a 5-4 win was reminiscent of the 2009 season.
On seventeen occasions that year (as if we’re talking about something that long ago), including once in the postseason, the Yankees walked a team off, celebrated wildly on en route to ending years of frustration with a 27th title in franchise history.
Mark Teixeira was the man who beat the Twins in Game 2 of the ’09 ALDS with a walk-off homer in extra innings to give his team a 2-0 series lead; so, too, did he beat the Jays last night when his single to right brought in Curtis Granderson (4-for-5, 1 RBI), who had singled in the tying run earlier.
As tough as the AL East is, such psychological blows must be dealt to break the will of your competition when such a chance presents itself.
“They always play us tough; that’s a good team,” Teixeira told icedjamb.com. “Any time you play in our division, you’re going to have a tough test. And you have to win these games, and tonight was a big win for us.”
The foundation for the victory was laid by CC Sabathia (W, 5-3) (9.0 IP, 8H, 4R), whose durability kept the Yankees in the game despite them being down, 4-1, for most of the evening. It wasn’t until the eighth, though, when New York began closing that gap.
“It’s one of those things where you just keep them close, good things are going to happen,” Sabathia, talking to icedjamb.com, said. “And it turned out good tonight.”
Russell Martin hit a solo home run (9) in the second off Toronto starter Ricky Romero (7.0 IP, 7H, 1R) to the put the Yankees up 1-0, and Corey Patterson tied the score with an RBI single in the third. In the fourth, Sabathia ran into trouble.
J.P. Arencibia and Rajai Davis hit RBI singles to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead, and John McDonald’s sac bunt drove in another run. (Cano made an error on the play, but all three runs that inning were earned.)
New York was kept off the scoreboard by Romero in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but by then Sabathia had settled down. The left-handed ace wouldn’t allow another run for the rest of the game.
“It’s one of those games that CC pitched well enough to get the ‘W.’ And here we’re hanging out, we get to 4-3, and we have a chance,” Jorge Posada, whose invaluable one-out double in the ninth sparked the rally, said. “CC did everything possible to keep us in the game and give us a [win].”
The Yankees got to 4-3 in the eighth after Robinson Cano doubled in Granderson and Russell Martin drove home Cano with a single up the middle. Cano’s RBI single came against reliever Casey Jensen (0.2 IP, 1H, 1R), the eighth-inning replacement for Romero. Mark Rzepczynski yielded the RBI single to Martin.
Frank Franciso (L, 1-2) attempted to close things out for the Jays in the ninth, but after getting Brett Gardner to ground out, he allowed a pinch-hit double to Posada, who was hitting in Eduardo Nunez’s stead. Manager Joe Girardi had Chris Dickerson run for Posada, and Dickerson moved to third on Derek Jeter’s groundout to short.
It was then when Granderson smashed Francisco’s 2-1 breaking ball through the right side to tie the game.
“Trying to get something I can handle,” Granderson said of his approach in the at-bat. “But also trying understanding what’s going to happen in the at-bat. It’s one of those things that I may or may not get something that’s my pitch; I may have to be disciplined enough and lay off his pitch.
“A little mental battle, but at the same just try to go ahead and put the ball in play hard somewhere.”
Granderson stole second during Teixeira’s at-bat to put himself in scoring position, and the switch-hitting slugger worked the count to 3-1, got a 95 mph fastball to hit and lined it toward first. First baseman Juan Rivera couldn’t handle the ball on a short hop, the ball trickled into shallow right and Granderson slid into home plate with time to spare.
“It’s big, especially who it came against: Toronto, a team that had our number all the way from last year, to the start of this year,” Granderson said. “The way it was looking like today, they were possibly going to win the series today. But to come, get a victory [vs.] a team that’s been playing well, making this race in the East as tight as it already is, is defnitely a big win for us. And now we got a chance to win the series tomorrow.”