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Yankees top A's on error in the 14th

Bombers victorious after rallying from four-run deficit in the 13th
09/22/2012 7:57 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Raul Ibanez homered twice on Saturday, including a game-tying blast in the 13th inning.(AP)

NEW YORK -- The most important win of 2012.

That's what people will say about Saturday afternoon's marathon 5 hour and 43 minute, 14-inning game if the Yankees go on to win the World Series. There are so many levels and components to this 10-9 victory, the Yankees seventh straight win, that it almost feels like the Yanks and A’s played two games.

A loss would have been a crushing blow. The Orioles had just won their 16th straight extra-inning game up at Fenway Park, putting the pressure on the Yankees. Even though it would have only counted as one loss, there is just a feeling that the wind would have been knocked out of the Yankees’ sails. With the win -- and in the fashion that they did it in -- this team must now feel like it can achieve almost anything. They showed poise, hustle, grit and the ability to overcome the biggest odds to emerge with a win.

Starting pitchers Ivan Nova and Travis Blackley couldn't get out of their own way, and each team’s bullpen kept things in check after the third. In the fifth, Raul Ibanez hit what looked to be a crushing blow to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. But the A's came back in the top of the seventh to tie things up.

That would be the end of the scoring output for either team for a couple of hours.

The Yankees had a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the seventh, but the next big chance for either team came for the A's in the 11th. One inning earlier, Joe Girardi put Steve Pearce at first base, replacing pinch runner Chris Dickerson. After Freddy Garcia got into some trouble and loaded the bases loaded,  Josh Reddick came to the plate with two outs.

To that point, Reddick was 0-for-10 in the series with 13 runners left on base. His luck wouldn't change as he ripped a line drive that looked like it would score the go-ahead run, but Pearce made a Mark Teixeira-like diving stab to end the inning and the threat.

New York had its chance in the 12th. Ibanez ripped what looked to be a single to center, but his hustle out of the box stretched it into a double. With Russell Martin up, A's pitcher Evan Scribner threw a wild pitch to move Ibanez over to third. Martin then hit a grounder to second and Ibanez was going all the way. Cliff Pennington calmly threw home to catcher Derek Norris, who received the ball, took a major hit from Ibanez at the plate and held on for the out.

The 13th inning is where everything went haywire. Garcia, who was still in the game for the Yankees, allowed a leadoff single to Stephen Drew. Jonny Gomes then blasted what looked like the game-winning home run to give the A's a 7-5 lead. Just for good measure, Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter tacked on solo home runs of their own to give Oakland a four-run cushion.

The Yankees would not go gently into the late afternoon in the bottom half of the inning. Oakland’s new pitcher, Pedro Figueroa, immediately gave up three straight singles to Ichiro, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano to start the inning. The A's then brought in Pat Neshek who would fare no better. After a wild pitch scored one run, Eduardo Nunez hit a sacrifice fly to score A-Rod and just like that, the game was 9-7 with one out and a runner on second. Ibanez, who already had that big home run earlier in the game, stepped in with a chance to change the Yankees’ fate.

“Just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Ibanez said. “Not trying to do too much.”

And a good pitch he got as he blasted his second home run of the afternoon and the biggest of his brief Yankees career to tie the game. Both teams scored four runs in the 13th and the Yankees showed a lot of gumption in overcoming the deficit.

“I told you all along, I like the fight in these guys,” Joe Girardi said of his team after the game. “Some of the things we go through we find ways to get back up. We go through some tough innings and they did it again today.”

Just when the drama couldn't get any bigger for the Yankees, the bottom of the 14th came with an opportunity to finally close the game out.

Eric Chavez led off the inning with a single against new Oakland pitcher Tyson Ross. Chavez was replaced by pinch runner Melky Mesa, who was making his Major League debut. Derek Jeter selflessly bunted Mesa over to second. Ross then intentionally walked Ichiro to get to A-Rod.

Rodriguez crushed what appeared to be the game-winning single into center field, but Mesa made a mistake and missed third base while trying to run home. Cano then hit a shot back to Ross who threw out Mesa at the plate on the force.

With two outs and the bases still loaded, Nunez hit a hot shot to first. Brandon Moss couldn't hold on and Ichiro scored on the error, sending the Yankees to an improbable 10-9 win.

After the game, the players and managers were stunned by the outcome.

“It's an unbelievable comeback by our guys to put some good at-bats together,” Girardi said. “One hitter at a time, get it done, tie it up and be able to win it in the 14th is remarkable.”

Newcomer Casey McGehee said he's never been in  a game like this one, and he said it was the most amazing 5 hour and 43 minute experience of his career.

Even the losing manager, Bob Melvin, said, “I don't remember a game quite like that, that I've ever been a part of. Certainly extra-inning games, long games, games where there are comebacks, but nothing quite like that. Those guys played their hearts out.”

Both teams did play a great game, but for the Yankees, this was more than just a victory. This is certainly the type of win that can be looked at as a defining moment for a team, especially if this current stretch of success is dragged out into October.

Some wild notes from the game include:

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is just the second time in franchise history that the Yankees overcame a four-run deficit in extra innings and went on to win. The only other time it happened was Sept. 17, 1980, against Toronto, when they trailed by four runs in the bottom of the 10th and won the game in 13 innings, 8-7.

Raul Ibanez became the first Yankee to hit a game-tying home run in 13th inning or later since Roy Smalley did it in the 14th in 1984 against the Mariners.

This marks the first time since the magical walk-off year of 2009 that the Yankees won back-to-back contests in walk-off fashion. Walk-off weekend from May 15-17, 2009, against the Twins was the last time that happened.

The Yankees won a game on a walk-off error for the first time since the infamous Luis Castillo dropped pop-up against the Mets on June 12, 2009.

The Yankees needed their September call-ups in this victory. They used 26 players, 17 of which were position players.

Since the All-Star break, Ivan Nova has started 10 games, going 2-4, with a 6.99 ERA, allowing 69 hits, 21 walks, 10 home runs, and a .309 opponent batting average. His season ERA has risen from 3.92 to 4.94 over that span.

Ichiro hit a solo home run early in the game. It was his fifth home run in 172 at-bats with the Yankees. He had four home runs in 402 at-bats with Seattle. Ichiro also now has five consecutive multi-hit games, going 14-for-20 over that span.

 

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