Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Flash and Melkman Save the Day

Flash Gardner Sparks Yankees Win

Melky Cabrera’s 2-out, 2-run single in the 9th inning last night capped an improbable comeback in the Yankees 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. At first it appeared the Yankees were going to get off on the wrong foot to start the nine game homestand. But after wasting a number of opportunities throughout the game against Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano, the Yankees broke through against one of the best closers in baseball in Joe Nathan.

The game-winning rally was actually set up by an incident that occured in the 3rd inning. That’s when Johnny Damon was called out on a strikes for the second straight at-bat and was subsequently ejected after he pointed out to home plate ump Wally Bell just how bad his calls were. Cabrera slid over to left field and Brett Gardner entered the game in center field.

With the Yankees trailing 4-1 in the 7th inning, Gardner lofted what seemed like a harmless fly to left, but the ball dropped and quickly ricocheted past an on-coming Denard Span and rolled towards the corner. Gardner raced around the bases, sliding home ahead of the relay for the first Yankees’ inside-the-park-home run since Ricky Ledee did the deed on August 29, 1999 against Seattle.

Gardner started things off in the 9th too, with a drive up the alley in right-center field. Despite slipping across the first base bag and falling, Gardner still managed to leg out a stand up triple. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single past a diving Matt Tolbert to cut the Twins’ lead to 4-3. Alex Rodriguez drew his fourth walk of the night and the Yankees were in business.

But Nathan, who was working for the fourth straight day, struck out Hideki Matsui and 1st baseman Justin Morneau robbed Nick Swisher of a potential RBI single. Suddenly the Yankees had the tying and winning runs in scoring position, but with two outs. Ron Gardenhire elected to intentionally walk Robinson Cano to leave things up to Cabrera. But Cabrera, who had a walk-off home run against the A’s on April 22, lined a fastball into the gap in left-center field to set off a wild celebration with his teammates. It concluded with a facial of shaving cream, courtesy of A.J. Burnett.

The Twins had built a 3-0 lead against Yankees’ starter Phil Hughes, who was far from stellar. Hughes worked his way out of a number of jams, but gave up a pair of solo home runs to Morneau before exiting after five innings. The Yankees got a run back in the fifth on Derek Jeter’s 5th home run of the year, but the Twins increased the lead back to three runs when Joe Mauer crushed a Phil Coke pitch into Monument Park in the 7th. But it wouldn’t be enough, as the Yankees earned their 12th come-from-behind victory this season.

Game Notes

There was a near bench-clearing incident in the 8th inning when Mark Teixeira took exception to Carlos Gomez running inside the runner’s box for the second time in the game. Gomez collided with Teixeira’s glove, causing the 1st baseman’s wrist to bend back. A clearly agitated Teixeira began yelling at Gomez saying “that’s the second time”. Ron Gardenhire came out and started yelling at Teixeira, which caused Joe Girardi to exchange words with Gardenhire. The game resumed without further incident.

Alex Rodriguez made his new Yankee Stadium debut and was greeted with polite applause.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brett Gardner became just the fourth rookie since division play began in 1969 to hit an inside-the-park home run. Deion Sanders (1990), Derek Jeter (1996), and Ricky Ledee (1999) are the others. Ironically, all four play or have played for the Yankees.

Gardner also became just the fourth player in the last 20 years to have an inside-the-park home run and a triple in the game.

Melky Cabrera’s
walk-off hit was his 4th since 2006, the most of any Yankee player during that time.

It was a rare blown save - a lead of 2 or more runs - for Joe Nathan… just the 6th time in 140 save chances.

The series continues today with Nick Blackburn facing Joba Chamberlain.

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