My ride to the airport is picking me up in less than five hours, so I’m probably going to make this one pretty quick.
The magnitude of tonight’s game more or less speaks for itself. The Yankees made it clear they wanted and needed to win when they tabbed Phil Hughes to start on fewer than 24 hours notice. There was already panic from the fan base, but there was suddenly urgency from the team itself.
Hughes could hardly have been better. Alex Rodriguez hit perhaps his biggest home run of the year. The rest of the bullpen picked up Mariano Rivera. Eduardo Nunez stole third base to change the complexion of the ninth. Juan Miranda had the green light to swing away at a 3-1 pitch in the 10th, but watched the game-winning ball four sail inside.
“That’s a really big win for us,” Joe Girardi said. “We still want to win our division, we still want to get home-field advantage, and we’re fighting like crazy to do that. But it’s a lot better feeling in that clubhouse tonight than it has been lately, that’s for sure.”
Here’s Girardi’s postgame.
• Ever seen an MVP candidate serve as nothing more than translator for a September call-up? It happened tonight when Miranda was surrounded by reporters and asked Robinson Cano to help him out. Miranda will speak broken English to a small group, but a crowd makes a little more nervous. “Every player’s dream,” he said. “Just come in and get a chance in a big situation like that and do the job.”
• Girardi on why he stuck with Miranda: “We still had things we could have done. I could have put Berkman at first. I could have put Posada at first. Okajima can be tough on right-handers too, and Juan Miranda is a guy that can get a fly ball and we felt comfortable with him in that situation.”
• Nunez was running on his own. “I give guys the green light,” Girardi said. “I tell them, if they can get the bag, get the bag because it puts pressure on people.” Would Girardi have sent Nunez? Girardi kind of hesitated and said, “It just worked out well.” Fair enough.
• Rodriguez has four home runs in his past eight at-bats. He’s suddenly one away from another 30-homer season, something that seemed literally impossible earlier this year.
• To be perfectly honest, when Rodriguez drew the walk in the ninth, I was already working on a paragraph about his second home run of the game. I wanted to be ready if he hit a walk-off, and he’s been so hot I really believed he was going to do it.
• Cano is hitting .611 with 25 RBI with the bases loaded this season. His bases-loaded single tied the game after the Rodriguez walk in the ninth.
• Rivera has now blown three of his past six save opportunities. He’s allowed a run in three straight appearances, the second time he’s done that this year. “I don’t think it’s anything I have to adjust,” he said. “It’s nothing that I have to do. I have to get them out, definitely, but it’s just making the pitches. It happens.”
• As for the four stolen bases against Rivera in the ninth, Girardi put it pretty simply: “They got some good jumps off Mo,” he said. Rivera on the stolen bases: “I got there and all of a sudden there are guys on base and guys running all over the place.”
• Rodriguez on Daisuke Matsuzaka: “I’ve never seen Matsuzaka throw the ball as well and sharp as he threw it tonight.”
• Hughes on leaving with a 1-0 deficit: “I figured I didn’t pitch well enough to win us this ball game. Matsuzaka was tremendous, but you kind of had a feeling we could push across a run. We just needed to get out of that jam that I put us in.”
• A lot of credit also to Dave Robertson for getting out of that jam. Robertson getting out of the seventh, “was a big turning point for us,” Hughes said.
• Hughes might not have said it, but all of the Yankees seemed to know and appreciate how very good he was tonight. In a huge playoff type start, he gave the Yankees their longest outing since his previous start, and did it after finding out late last night that he was starting. “It’s not like the four days in between you’re zeroed in on your next start,” he said. “I had plenty of time to mentally prepare for it.”
• Hughes hasn’t been told whether he’ll pitch again this season.
• We’ll give the last word to Rodriguez, who seemed to think back to Greg Golson’s throw in Tampa when talking about Miranda’s walk tonight in the Bronx. “Whoever would have through in February that Golson and Juan Miranda down the stretch would help us win two big playoff-atmosphere-type games,” he said.
• I didn’t do a very good job of making this quick. See you all in Toronto.
Associated Press photos of Miranda’s mob, Teixeira with Rodriguez and Hughes coming out of the game.