Dean Anna is the backup to Derek Jeter. He’s the guy who was picked to pitch in a blowout yesterday, and he was not supposed to be in the lineup today. The Rays would obviously rather pitch to him with the bases loaded than face Jacoby Ellsbury with runners at the corners.
“I kind of knew, pretty much right when it was happening, that he was gonna get walked for me,” Anna said. “I was just prepared to battle and grind out an at-bat and get that run in somehow, some way, you know?”
Two outs. Full count. Twelfth inning. Anna’s go-ahead walk was one of the Yankees biggest moments of this young season. Fail to score there, and only things standing between the Yankees and a complete weekend collapse would have been a Triple-A reliever and a Double-A starter. The Yankees had already been embarrassed on Friday and Saturday, and they might very well have lost their No. 3 starter for the season. They needed something positive, and Anna’s eight-pitch at-bat was exactly that.
“Baseball’s all about moments,” Anna said. “And that was a moment, right there.”
Anna brought in the go-ahead run, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano built some breathing room, and Preston Claiborne finished off the win with a second inning of scoreless relief. This was very nearly a punch-to-the-gut weekend, but today’s win was a momentum shifter. Imagine how different tomorrow’s off day would feel had the Yankees let this one get away.
“Rookie kid that hasn’t had a lot of at-bats, probably never seen the pitcher before, and he just put on a good at-bat,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s the one thing that we noticed in spring training, he gave you good at-bats. And he gave us a good win tonight.”
· Anna was only in the game because Girardi had decided to pinch run for Jeter in the 11th. Ichiro Suzuki ran and was caught stealing on a very close play that required replay review. “I’m taking a chance on getting a run there,” Girardi said. “Ich probably had a better chance of stealing a base there, and I’m trying to steal a base there. It’s a hard decision to make, but with some of the inexperience I had in my bullpen, I went for it that inning.”
· Little bit of redemption for Claiborne tonight. After struggling in the second half last season, and then having a brutal spring training, this was his chance to show something and he did. “There were some things I was off about,” Claiborne said. “I just went down (to Triple-A), worked w ith Scotty (Aldred) and fixed them. It was a mechanical thing for the most part, flying off the ball and not getting everything I could behind it. I feel pretty comfortable right now.”
· Essentially using six different relievers — beginning with spot starter Vidal Nuno — the Yankees pitching staff delivered 12 innings without an earned run. Adam Warren bounced back from his rough outing on Friday, and Shawn Kelley continued to pitch well with two no-hit innings that included four strikeouts, including striking out the side in the 10th (against the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters).
· Nuno went five scoreless innings in his first spot start of the year. Girardi said the Yankees coaching staff will discuss tomorrow who should take Ivan Nova’s spot in the rotation, and he said that Nuno is “of course” a part of that conversation. “Every day is an opportunity,” Nuno said. “Just showing I can belong here and get people out.”
· Girardi on Nuno: “He was great. We thought he started to tire there at the end and that’s why we pulled him. We even had Phelpsie up earlier than that, but he kept making some big pitches and that’s a big boost to be able to give us five inning like that and to be able to hold that team down, especially the way they were swinging. It’s a big start for him. Obviously we need to make some plans for Saturday, and we’ll do that tomorrow.”
· A lot of replay in this game, beginning with Brett Gardner’s fly out that was really a home run that was ruled a double. Basically, after Wil Myers acted as if he caught the ball at the wall, the umpires ruled Gardner out, but he kept running and crossed home plate on what should have been still a live ball. Upon replay, the umpires decided to put Gardner at second, assuming he would have stopped there had the ball never been ruled a catch. “That’s what they decide in New York,” Girardi said. “It has nothing to do with the umpires on the field. I have no recourse. I can’t argue with people in New York.”
· I thought Gardner at least had a triple. “My argument wasn’t second or third,” Gardner said. “My argument was that it should’ve been second or home. I thought it was kind of a weird play, but I guess get used to it.”
· No replay on the ball that Brian Roberts dropped trying to turn a double play in the seventh. That wound up being a huge play, but baseball is not really calling the transfer ruling anymore this year. “You’ve got to make the transfer and he didn’t do it,” Girardi said. “He didn’t have a grip on the ball, so that’s why I didn’t replay it.”
· Replay also came into play on the Ichiro caught stealing. He was initially ruled safe, but replay showed he was out on a very, very close play. “I put in a guy that I thought had a chance to steal a base and he was darn close,” Girardi said.
· Mark Teixeira had two hits in his return to the lineup. He said his hamstring felt fine with absolutely no issues. “I feel good,” he said. “I still have a lot of rust to knock off; it’s been over a year that I haven’t really been playing consistently. I just have to get back in the groove of things, my teammates will pick me up every now and then, hopefully get some hits here and there and get rolling.”
· Jorge Posada was here today. He was around for batting practice pregame.
· Final word goes to Gardner: “Huge win. Yesterday hurt. Yesterday was embarrassing, but a loss is a loss. You’d rather lose 14-1 than 14-10. It was a huge win for us today; it’s hard to come in here and win two out of four games. Four-game series are tough, especially down here. I feel like we’ve won one or two games down here the past three years. These guys always play us tough and we’re happy to get out of here with two wins for sure.”
Associated Press photos