Brett Gardner said he wasn’t sure whether Yadier Molina’s deep drive in the 11th inning would have gone over the fence, but it was awfully close.
“Let’s just say it was (going out), then, if we’re not sure,” Brendan Ryan said. “Game-saving catch!”
It certainly felt that way. Even if it weren’t out, a double off the top of the wall would have been a game-changer if not a game-winner. Gardner’s catch was huge, as was Ryan’s quick reaction play at first base to start a double play in the 10th inning. The Yankees have played well in extra innings this season, and today it was because their bullpen held serve and their defense came up with big plays. They held off the Cardinals just long enough for the offense to pounce.
“It feels like we’ve played extra innings every day,” Brian Roberts said. “It’s always good to win those. … It speaks to our bullpen and how well they’ve pitched. You need to hold the home team in order to let us score a run. That’s tough to do.”
So did Gardner’s catch save the game, or was it just one of those things that helped along the way?
“I’m not sure,” Gardner said. “I didn’t see the replay. Murphy was in the bullpen. He said it was pretty close. Either way I was glad I could catch it. I was still frustrated about the ball that Holliday hit earlier in the game that I didn’t catch and led to a couple of runs there in the middle of the game. It was a huge win for our team. A lot of guys stepped up, bullpen did a great job, and guys came through with big hits.”
• Before that 12th-inning rally, it seemed the Yankees came might hinge on Joe Girardi’s decision not to use Dellin Betances with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth. Girardi basically cited three reasons for going to Preston Claiborne (who ultimately allowed two runs). 1. “We’re trying not to kill Betances.” 2. “That spot was coming up, the fourth hitter that inning, and I knew I wanted some multiple innings out of Betances (because the bullpen was thin).” 3. “Not having (Adam) Warren in that situation, I knew I wanted Dellin to give us the seventh and the eighth.”
• So, putting it all together, the Yankees did not have Warren or Matt Daley available, so Girardi knew he might need distance and Betances can provide it. He also didn’t have his setup man, and Betances can do that too. And, if he could get out of it without using Betances at all, that would be ideal. Kind of weird that Girardi has loved using Betances in that fireman role for the past month or so but didn’t want to do it tonight. To me it seemed like the obvious time to use him, but we don’t always agree.
• One other thing from Girardi’s decision to use Claiborne that I suppose is perfectly true if he’s not going to completely burn out Warren and Betances: “Some of these guys are going to have to help us in tough situations.” Having Shawn Kelley healthy would help.
• Ryan has now played first base three times. He had not played it once before last Sunday. “Footwork isn’t enormous like it is at short and second as far as importance,” Ryan said. “It’s really just catch the ball. Catch the ball. After that, you’ve got plenty of time. It’s a reactionary spot, and I just try to react well. … (The throw angle is unusual) but then you look up and see a guy like Jeter, and all of a sudden you feel comfortable. Guarding the line so we don’t give up a run there. Make the catch, and it’s almost third person really. It just kind of happened, and then thought about it. Just glad it worked out.”
• Gardner on the difficulty of his game-saving catch: “Right over my head. It was a pretty easy play. The first one (when he missed against Matt Holliday), the wind really knocked it down and took it back toward center field. It should have been in the back left of our bullpen, but the wind just kept pushing it back. I got back far enough, I just didn’t get over far enough. You learn from it, and thank goodness we came out on top.”
• The Cardinals ultimately loaded the bases, but it seems that Jacoby Ellsbury’s steal in the 12th might have changed that inning. Yadier Molina has thrown out more than 50 percent of base stealers this season. Busch Stadium gave him a standing ovation when he threw out Gardner earlier in the game. “I guess as a base stealer I look forward to stuff like that,” Ellsbury said. “In those situations, I’m going, want to give my team a chance to win that game. Get in scoring position, let Mac (try to get) a bloop or anything will score me from second.”
• Gardner on being caught stealing earlier in the game: “Average jump, just the guy back there is pretty good. He’s tough to run against, and the guy’s throwing pretty hard to the plate, and he made a perfect throw and got me.”
• Chase Whitley came out of the game with a rough first inning — three hits, limited the damage to one run — and he was surprised that it started that way. “Today was weird because I was pretty good in the bullpen,” Whitley said. “I thought going into it I was locked in, and made a couple of pitches early that were hit around. Before you know it, I’ve got a runner at second with one run in. I had to battle and that’s when I think mentally I got locked in, right after that.”
• The one pitch Whitley seemed to really regret was the hit by pitch on his final pitch of the game. He said Matt Adams fouled off a really good pitch the at-bat before, and of course Holliday’s ball was nearly caught. Whitley said he still felt strong after a career-high of total pitchers. “The way I look at this is, hopefully we can be in the ballgame whenever I’m out,” Whitley said. “And we were in the ballgame.”
• Ichiro Suzuki got his first intentional walk of the season. He’s third among active players in intentional walks behind Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.
• Roberts is 3-for-6 in extra innings this season. “I think he’s able to relax in those situations,” Girardi said. “He doesn’t get away from what he knows, what he needs to do to be successful, and he doesn’t try to do too much.”
• Final word to Girardi: “They keep playing. They keep playing and they never give at-bats away. They keep making pitches, and defensive plays. It’s a team that expects to win when we go out there every day, and they just keep playing.”
Associated Press photos