Imagine if George Steinbrenner were around and in his blustery prime and the Yankees had lost Saturday’s extra-inning game to the A’s in the midst of this airtight pennant race. Melky Mesa would’ve been sent down to the Instructional League 30 seconds after the game. Maybe sooner.
The 25-year-old rookie’s major-league debut didn’t go so well. Joe Girardi inserted him as a pinch runner after a leadoff single by Eric Chavez in the 14th, the score tied. After a sacrifice by Derek Jeter and an intentional walk to Ichiro Suzuki, Alex Rodriguez ripped a single into center. The game should’ve been over. But Mesa stepped over third, missing the bag. He had to go back.
“I’ll give him credit,” Girardi said. “He didn’t compound the problem by continuing to go.”
Mesa was then forced at the plate by Robinson Cano. But Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss bailed out Mesa from possible infamy, making an error on Eduardo Nunez’s grounder, allowing the Yankees to win 10-9 and retain their one-game edge over the Orioles.
“The first time it’s happened to me,” Mesa said. “What can I do? A mistake.”
Girardi still came over to his locker and presented him with the lineup card as a souvenir from his first game.
“He won’t forget it,” Girardi said.
Mesa hit a combined .264 with 26 doubles, 23 homers and 67 RBI in 121 games at Double-A and Triple-A this season.
His Yankees teammates offered him encouragement after the mistake.
“You feel for him,” Raul Ibanez said. “That’s his debut.”