In honor of John Sterling: Two you-can’t-predict-baseball twists from tonight’s walk-off win against the Red Sox.
1. Javier Vazquez could have started this game. He and Phil Hughes each pitched that doubleheader in Detroit, and either could have gotten the start tonight in the Bronx. Vazquez was skipped, he was called into emergency duty out of the pen, and he picked up his first home win of the season on four pitches. “I was watching from afar last year, all of the pies in the face from A.J.,” Vazquez said. “I was glad to finally see one in person.”
2. If not for the injuries to Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher, chances are Marcus Thames wouldn’t have been in the lineup tonight, and he almost certainly wouldn’t have been in there against a right-handed closer. “If I would have those two guys available, Marcus probably wouldn’t have been in the game,” Joe Girardi said.
Sometimes things just work out.
Of course, it looked like this one wasn’t going to work out at all. After that early five-run lead, Yankee Stadium was in a state of stunned silence heading into the ninth. One night after Mariano Rivera blew a save, the Yankees were three outs away from blowing a massive early lead. Then Alex Rodriguez went deep. Then Thames crushed the first pitch he saw.
“We did it the hard way today,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously yesterday was devastating for us, but we’re at home and we feel like, until the last out is collected we have a chance.”
Here’s the man of the hour, Marcus Thames, talking about the first pie of the year.
• Vazquez is still the scheduled starter for Friday. He threw four pitches tonight, and Girardi said he could have gone up to 45 or 50 and still had a chance of making that start.
• Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson were not available. That’s why Chan Ho Park had to go two innings and that’s why Vazquez had to pitch in the ninth. Robertson had pitched two days in a row. Chamberlain had pitched Sunday and he’d gotten loose twice on Saturday. “It’s hard to look at that card and not want to use guys,” Girardi said. “You have to understand it’s a long season and it’s my job to protect guys in the bullpen.”
• Girardi called down to the bullpen early in the ninth inning and told Vazquez to get ready in case Youkilis came to the plate. “We weren’t going to let Marte go beyond J.D. Drew,” Girardi said. After that, Vazquez had 100 pitches and he was going to use them all. It was his game the rest of the way.
• Girardi got upset when it was suggested he had skipped Vazquez’s start to keep Vazquez out of the pressure of a Red Sox game. “I want to make this clear,” Girardi said. “He was not skipped because of that situation. Our bullpen is a mess. We needed a long guy. We could not activate Chan Ho Park if you didn’t have a long man. You couldn’t call up some of the guys we sent down, you couldn’t recall them, and you did not have Nova. We wanted Chan Ho Park back in our bullpen, and that’s why Javy had to do it.”
• Park said going two innings was not a factor in giving up the home runs. He had enough stamina, just didn’t make the pitches. It was a slider to Youkilis, a fastball to Martinez. “Make the right pitch in the right spot, you get out of it,” Park said.
• Although he seemed upset at the time, Francisco Cervelli said he was not angry at being hit by a pitch in the ninth. “Not angry, I think it was adrenalin,” he said. “Nothing was on purpose. He tried to go in and missed his spot.”
• Hughes was pretty down on himself, probably too down on himself. “To blow the early lead like that was pretty embarrassing,” he said. Truth is, Hughes pounded the strike zone, but the Red Sox had some great at-bats and took advantage of two cutters — Ortiz and Drew — that Hughes said he didn’t get far enough inside.
• Rodriguez went out of his way to praise Gardner, who Rodriguez said had a great at-bat for that lead-off double in the ninth. Three runs for Gardner was a career high. Against Papelbon, Gardner is 4-for-4 with two walks. “Without Gardy getting on base, the home runs are solo and we probably lose,” Rodriguez said.
• Burnett said he always has the whipped cream and towel waiting just outside of the dugout, just for occasions like this.
• This was the second walk-off home run of Thames’ career, but we’ll leave the final numbers for Rodriguez. Of the past 16 Yankees walk-offs, Rodriguez has driven in the game-tying or game-winning run in seven of them.