As I walked to the subway last night I saw a middle-aged man wearing a Yankee cap and a navy blue t-shirt that read: "Got Melky?" I complimented him on his shirt. Dude was the first person I thought about early this morning when Melky Cabrera'ssolo home run won the game for the Yankees in extra innings, 5-4.
Sidney Ponson wasn't terrible but Joel Piniero was better. (Both bullpens were strong.) The Yanks trailed 4-2 in the ninth when it began to rain. After the heat we've suffered through in New York for the last few days, the rain was welcome. And just as the Yanks started to rally, the rain started to fall. The crowd--as if speaking for all of New York--started to cheer, both for the team and for the rain. Andy Phillips doubled. Thunder clap. The fans roar. Winds swirling like mad. Aaron Guiel, pinch hiting, singled to right scoring Phillips. Lighting. More cheers.
And then, a gift. The Yanks lucked out when Jorge Posada was called safe legging out a ground ball. He was clearly out. Instead of two outs and a man on third, it was one out, men on the corners. Johnny Damon followed and slapped the first pitch into center for a sacrifice fly, tying the game.
Alex Rodriguez did not start but entered the game late as a pinch-hitter (Nick Green played third and collected three hits). In the seventh, Rodriguez popped up to the shortstop. Before the ball landed, the boo birds began to howl. Now, Rodriguez was up in the ninth with two outs and a runner on first. The rain poured down, a real summer thundershower. The crowd cheered Rodriguez. But with the count 3-1, the umps called for the tarp. Derek Jeter was due up next. As the players filed into the dugout, Jeter had a look of mock disgust on his face (though the Yankees were lucky the umps let them play as long as they did). Seconds later, he was smiling, that broad, easy smile of his that we only see on the field or in the dugout but never when addressing the press.
Rodriguez would have to close to two hours to think about things before he got back in the batter's box. When play resumed, he swung at a slider and then was caught looking by a fastball on the outside part of the plate. The boo birds had mercy--or most of them had gone home already. Perhaps the rain temporarily refreshed them. Two innings later, Cabrera ended it. What a joyous way to end the game as well as the heat wave. As Cabrera approached the plate, he tossed his helmet into the air with both hands--a move that has become customary these days. Johnny Damon caught the helmet and happily spiked it into the ground behind home plate.
The energy in the stadium in the ninth inning will go down as one of the most memorable moments of the year for me. And how about Johnny Damon playing first and Andy Phillips playing second base? The Yanks steal a win and remain a half-game behind Boston. Not a bad way for Joe Torre to celebrate his 66th birthday.