What appeared to be a relatively easy path to victory for the New York Yankees in their series finale Sunday vs. the Oakland Athletics behind Bartolo Colon (W, 7-6) (7.0 IP, 8H, 2R) and timely hitting turned into a late-inning thriller.
New York’s 6-2 lead entering the eighth was in jeopardy after former Yankee Hideki Matsui (5-for-5, RBI) and catcher Kurt Suzuki each hit an RBI double off reliever David Robertson to get Oakland within 6-4. This forced manager Joe Girardi to bring in closer Mariano Rivera (S, 25) with two outs in the inning.
Rivera got shortstop Cliff Pennington to ground out to second for the third out, but Oakland was able to load the bases with one out in the ninth and closed within 7-5 when Josh Willingham lined an RBI single to left.
The next hitter, David DeJesus, hit a liner down the first base line that threatened to send the game to extra innings.
Luckily for the Yanks, Mark Teixeira was positioned a few feet behind the first base bag in order to prevent an extra base hit. Teixeira caught the line drive, saw that Ryan Sweeny (pinch running for Willingham) was nearly halfway to second and tagged first to complete the unassisted double play.
On a scale of 1-to-10, how pleased was Curtis Granderson to see a would-be late-inning meltdown turn into a 7-5 win?
“You never want to give a team an extra out, so you got to put it up there with a 10,” the center fielder told Latino Sports. “Not because of the pressure. But any time you give another team life, anything can happen.”
After the A’s scored two runs off Colon on Cliff Pennington’s RBI single and Eric Sogard RBI double in the second, New York got a run-scoring single from Andruw Jones in the bottom of the inning and a two-run double from Eduardo Nunez in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead.
In the fifth, Granderson turned on a full count, 92 mph fastball from Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez (L, 9-7) (4.2 IP, 7H, 6) and hammered a two-run home run (27) into the second deck in right and Jones made it 6-2 with an RBI infield single toward short. After the A’s struck for two runs in the eighth, Derek Jeter’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the inning made it 7-4, giving the Yanks some much needed insurance going into the ninth.
As Seattle rolls into Yankee Stadium Monday night to begin a three-game series, the Yanks will be looking to decrease the three-game gap between them and the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. Seattle’s Jason Vargas (6-8, 3.94 ERA) and Yankees veteran Freddy Garcia (8-7, 3.21 ERA) will start the series opener.