Imagine this: Nick Swisher was smiling and laughing and screaming.
“Everybody order your Raul Ibanez jerseys!”
Started the game on the bench. Pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the ninth. Game-winning, two-out single in the 12th (off a lefty no less).
“He’s my favorite player for a lot of reasons right now,” Mark Teixeira said. “He’s such a professional. He’s one of the nicest guys in baseball, one of the best teammates in baseball, so when you get a chance to see him come up big like this — he’s done it a couple times this year — it makes everyone so happy.”
Ibanez now has 19 home runs as a part-time player. He’s hit .247/.317/.494 against right-handers, giving the Yankees exactly the power they were expecting. He had a game a lot like this one during the previous home stand, and now has four homers in his past 10 games down the stretch.
“You know you’re going to be in these situations when you come to play here,” Ibanez said. “I feel really blessed to be a part of it, to be a part of this great tradition and legacy that is the Yankees. To get an opportunity like that and to be able to help the team win, it’s definitely special. At the same time, the moment is behind us now and tomorrow is a new day.”
• Amazing that the 12th-inning rally started with Francisco Cervelli’s first plate appearance of the season. He drew a two-out walk, Curtis Granderson did the same, then Ibanez came up with his game winner. “When you wake up, you need to have a little expectation to do something in the game,” Cervelli said. “You cannot come here naked and just be surprised and tell somebody an excuse. You’ve got to come here, because unfortunately people get hurt sometimes, people don’t feel well that day, so you’ve got to come ready. You never know what’s going to happen.”
• Cervelli was the same as you remember him after the game, thrilled to be a part of it and to have played some role after what had to be a frustrating year in Triple-A. “This makes my season,” he said. “Because it’s just one game left, and to have that chance, I can just go home really happy today.”
• Robinson Cano had his eighth straight multi-hit game, matching the longest such streak of his career. He has 20 hits in 35 at-bats over that stretch. The last Yankee with a longer such streak was Bernie Williams who had 10 straight in 2002.
• Joe Girardi on the decision to bat Teixeira fourth instead of Cano. “Texy has been one of our better hitters against left-handers all year,” Girardi said. “We brought him back a couple weeks ago and he had a big hit off a left-hander. It didn’t work tonight, but I still believe in Texy and his at-bats against left-handers.”
• Teixeira vs. LHP this season: .269/.335/.531. Cano vs. LHP this season. .239/.306/.337. Girardi has a fair point about the numbers vs. lefties, but still, a guy in his second game back from an injury over a guy who’s as hot as anyone in baseball? Questionable choice at best especially considering this…
• Teixeira went 0-for-6 and drove in none of the nine runners one base when he came to the plate. “Very frustrating,” he said. “But I’m the happiest guy on the team right now. I guarantee you I’m the happiest guy on the team because it could not have gone worse for me personally, but we won. I told Raul ‘thank you’ about 100 times. The frustrating thing is I don’t think I swung at a ball all night. I was so off. I was early or way late, and that’s the frustrating part, that I was actually seeing it OK, it just wasn’t connecting with my swing.”
• Really, really good start from David Phelps. He gave up the two runs on two hits in the first inning, but allowed just one hit the rest of the way. “It’s a little frustrating knowing that we had a runner on and we were still down (when Girardi went to the bullpen),” Phelps said. “But I was satisfied because I gave us a chance to win. I just went out there and kind of pitched my game and proved to myself that I could pitch in a big game. I had two starts against Baltimore that didn’t go great, but I came out and proved to myself that I was able to go out there and kind of stay calm in the moment.”
• Phelps said he felt in control all night, even in that two-run first. “Even in the first inning I was throwing strikes,” he said. “I was getting ahead of guys. It’s frustrating to get out there and put us in a hole like that, but you can’t say enough about how they fought the whole game. They ended up bailing me out.”
• This was the first time since 2010 that Rafael Soriano pitched two full innings in a game. He threw 43 pitches. He’s thrown more pitches in relief just twice (both 44-pitch outings in 2003 and 2005). “He hasn’t worked a lot lately,” Girardi said. “We ask our guys, ‘Are you OK? Are you sure you’re OK?’ He said he was OK. … Hopefully he feels OK tomorrow if I need him. I’ve said it all along and I’m going to say it again: We’re trying to win the division.”
• Another strong outing for Derek Lowe, who might be pitching himself onto the postseason roster. “He’s got such a good sinker and he’s got a slider for the right-handers, too,” Girardi said. “He can get a lot of groundballs, and when you get in those tight games, those ground balls are important. He gets the big double play. Keeping the ball in the ballpark, that’s something that he’s able to do because of his sinker.”
• Boone Logan made his 80th appearance, the most ever for a Yankees left-handed reliever in a single season. He, Paul Quantrill, Scott Proctor and Tom Gordon are the only Yankees pitchers to ever appear in so many games in a season.
• Teixeira said his calf felt fine, but he wasn’t able to run all out tonight, and it showed on those two double plays in his first two at-bats. “The first one I would’ve beat out,” he said. “I didn’t hit that ball hard at all, and with a normal leg, I beat it out. It comes into your mind that if you take that one extra step, I can beat it out, but I thought I was running well tonight. With normal legs, I might have beat out two of those.”
• Weird Ibanez historic fact: He’s the first Yankee with an RBI to tie to go ahead in the ninth inning AND an RBI to tie or go ahead in extra innings since Bernie Williams on September 23, 2001 at Baltimore. Ten of Ibanez’s 19 home runs have eight tied a game or put the Yankees in the lead, and 11 of his homers have come in the sixth inning or later.
• This was the Yankees fifth walk-off win of the season and their third in their past five home games.
• If the Yankees win tomorrow, they’ll finish with the best record in the American League and home-field advantage through the ALCS. Amazing all things considered.
• Final word, obviously, goes to Ibanez: “I think it’s the character that’s in here. It’s a bunch of resilient guys, guys who can fight and battle every time they compete. Everybody on this team gets in the box and on the field and competes during times like these. Everyone is cheering for each other and pulling for each other, and every day there’s a lot of different moments that different people are doing different things. It’s great to be a part of it.”
Associated Press photos