There wasn’t a question that sparked this response, it was just something Brett Gardner said as if it occurred to him while he was talking to a group of reporters.
“It was a great win, biggest one of the year,” he said. “For sure, man. Right now every game is important. Very important.”
The Yankees know there’s not much margin for error at this point. Not in an individual game, and not in the standings. They could hardly afford to lose for a fourth time in five games after the break, and this was basically a sure loss heading into the ninth inning against an All-Star closer.
But a chance for redemption came to Brent Lillibridge, who’s error had opened the door to that four-run sixth that nearly cost the Yankees the game. It wasn’t an easy play, but it was a play Lillibridge could have made, and he botched it. In the ninth, Joe Girardi was going to pinch hit for Lillibridge until Eduardo Nunez hit his game-tying double. At that point, Lillibridge got to stay in and deliver the game-winning single.
“As the count was working, Nuney was getting into a good hitter’s count,” Lillibridge said. “The passed ball kind of changed it, because if he gets a hit here, we’re going to tie it up and we’re going to need somebody out at third base to play defense. I started creeping back over, stopped pouting after a couple pitches and said, ‘Hey, I have a chance to maybe be able to hit again.’ (Nunez) got the big hit, scored the run and got to third base, and I knew that I was going to have a chance to redeem myself.”
It was a chance for the entire team to redeem itself, to turn a sure loss into a much-needed win.
“If we would have lost that game, then we didn’t do our jobs from an offensive standpoint,” Vernon Wells said. “When we score runs, we need to add on. It would be better not to wait until the ninth to do it, to add on a little bit before that. The way it turned out, it was a great win. Hopefully it’s something to build on.”
• Might see a little more of Lillibridge at third base. Luis Cruz is almost certainly heading for the disabled list, and it looks like David Adams is being called up to take his place. Cruz hurt himself trying to make a sliding catch last night. “Inning by inning it was getting worse,” Cruz said. “The last inning, it starts swelling, and I don’t know how I finished the game. Today, when I wake up, it was really big, and I couldn’t walk good.”
• Cruz is getting an MRI when the Yankees get back to New York. He said the early indication is that it’s an MCL problem. He’s wearing a massive brace that runs from his foot to just above the knee.
• If Nunez hadn’t driven in the tying run, Girardi was going to pinch hit Travis Hafner for Lillibridge. Girardi was going to take his offensive chance right then and there, and if it worked, he was going to play Chris Stewart at third base. “He said he had played first, so I said, well, you’re going to play third,” Girardi said. Obviously it didn’t come to that. Hafner pinch hit for Austin Romine later in the inning, and Stewart went in at catcher.
• Speaking of injured infielders: Derek Jeter hit, ran and took grounders during batting practice. “Everything was good,” he said. “… They haven’t told me I have to pass any kind of tests. Hopefully it goes good the next couple days and then we’ll get going.”
• In his Double-A rehab start, David Phelps went 3.2 innings allowing two runs on two hits. He walked three and struck out six. Both runs came on a home run.
• Why did Girardi pull Phil Hughes after just 80 pitches? Mostly because Girardi thought Hughes’ results seemed better than his actual pitching, and Girardi didn’t want to keep taking his chances. “They were starting to square the ball up a little bit,” Girardi said. “He was up in the zone a lot. I thought he battled all night. I thought we made some pretty decent defensive plays behind him tonight. And that’s Boonie’s job, to come in and get Moreland out. Unfortunately he didn’t do it tonight, but I’ll throw him out there again.”
• Hughes said he didn’t want to come out of the game, but he also didn’t seem to disagree with Girardi’s assessment of his night. “I didn’t have really good stuff or command, which was kind of reflected in the three walks and only one strikeout,” Hughes said. “But I got out of some tough jams early, and we scored some runs, and in that sixth inning I felt like I really had to make a better pitch to Andrus. Turns out it almost lost us the game.”
• What seemed wrong with Hughes? “I don’t think he was as sharp as he’s been at times,” Girardi said. “It was a long layoff. You always worry about that first start after the All-Star break. You always hear pitchers talk about they’re always a little bit concerned. They get out of their routine. I thought he battled his rear end off.”
• Here’s Lillibridge explaining his error: “He hit it hard. Your first reaction is that it’s one of those things where you either have to go hard into it and one-hand it, or sit back and do what I did, try to ‘ole’ it and grab it and then you have plenty of time. It’s a tough play, but I understand (the scoring decision). It’s within reach of me and I should have made the play. As a defensive player, I expected to make the play. I wasn’t frustrated or mad at all that it was an error because I felt like I should have made the play in the first place.”
• On his game-tying triple, Nunez began to stumble between second and third. He said he saw the ball get away from Gentry in center field and starting thinking inside-the-park home run. He basically tried to speed up even more, and that got him off balance. He said Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter were quickly giving him a hard time. “That’s why I was in trouble at second base,” Nunez said. “I tried too much.” It was Nunez’s first major league go-ahead hit in the ninth inning or later.
• Weird scoring thing: Boone Logan was charged with an earned run, but the Yankees aren’t charged with a bullpen earned run. The inning should have been over by the time Logan entered the game, so team runs weren’t earned. But Logan still allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, so that’s his.
• This was the Yankees fourth win of the season when trailing after eight innings. … Aside from the sixth inning, the Rangers had a total of two hits. … The Rangers scoreless innings streak against the Yankees ended at 22 innings.
• With Melky Mesa making his first big league start, the Yankees have now used 46 players this season, one more than they used in 2012.
• Final word goes to Lillibridge: “It’s amazing how baseball sometimes works where that random error, all of a sudden things start falling apart. I was glad we were able to hold it close and get an opportunity late against a great closer. It was a great opportunity and I was able to come through with it. Hopefully just made the play in the first place and we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”
Associated Press photos