Gardner saves Rivera again
Brett Gardner came to Mariano Rivera’s rescue again. The way Gardner looked at it, a Yankees hitter picking up Mo was due for all the game’s greatest closer has meant to the team the past 19 seasons.
“I think Mo has bailed us out quite a few times,” Gardner said. “Things like that happen.”
Well, not quite. Rivera had never blown three consecutive save opportunities before the past five days nor had he ever allowed two home runs in a save opportunity. That was the case Sunday when trying to nail down a 4-2 victory over the Tigers Mo gave up solo shots to Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez that tied the score.
“There’s always a first time,” Rivera said. “I don’t pay attention to that stuff; just go out there and do my job. The last three opportunities, I haven’t done it. You have to continue battling.”
But in the last two of those blown-save situations, the Yankees came back to win the game with Gardner getting the climactic hit each time. Friday night after Cabrera stunned Rivera with a two-run bomb over Monument Park in the top of the ninth, Gardner won it for the Yankees with a single in the bottom of the 10th. Sunday it was Gardner who put the Yankees over the top again with his first career walk-off home run, off Jose Veras.
“That’s the first time I ever hit a walk-off homer and might be the last,” Gardner said. “I’ve had a couple of seeing-eye singles, up the middle and through the left side, but never a home run like that. It felt good. It didn’t matter if it was me or somebody else; we just needed to get a win today. I was glad we made it happen.”
It was a happening all right. The Yankees won two of three games from the club with the best record in the American League. It was the first winning series for the Yankees since July 5-7 against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Before Sunday, the Yankees had endured eight consecutive non-winning series (five losses, three splits), their longest such stretch in 22 years.
Gardner’s walk-off homer was the second of the season for the Yankees. The other was by Ichiro Suzuki June 25 against the Rangers at the Stadium. Gardner’s eight home runs are the most he has hit in one season. With 23 career homers, the Yankees are 20-3 in those games.
Rivera allowed two home runs in a game for the fifth time in his career and the first time since May 7, 2009 to the Rays’ Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria. Sunday was the first time Mo was taken deep twice in a save opportunity, however.
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte allowed one earned run in 4 1/3 innings, the fewest runs he has allowed in a game since June 8 at Seattle and the fewest in a game at the Stadium since April 4 against the Red Sox. The run off Pettitte came in the first inning, marking the eighth straight start in which he has been scored upon in the first inning, equaling a franchise-record streak by Javier Vazquez from April 3 to May 15, 2011.
With his first home run of the season, Alex Rodriguez passed Stan Musial into fifth place in career RBI with 1,951. It was career homer No. 648 for A-Rod, who is 12 behind fourth-place Willie Mays on the all-time list.
Alfonso Soriano’s solo home run (No. 20) in the fourth inning was his 2,000th career hit. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that Soriano is one of four players who made their major league debuts with the Yankees in the past 60 years to get at least 2,000 career hits, joining Derek Jeter (3,308), Bernie Williams (2,336) and Don Mattingly (2,153). Sori also joined the Red Sox’ David Ortiz as the only players to hit at least 20 homers in each of the past 12 seasons (2002-13).
David Robertson allowed a solo home run to Brayan Pena at the start of the eighth inning. It ended D-Rob’s 20 1/3-inning scoreless stretch dating to June 19. Robertson still has a streak of holding opponents hitless each of their past 23 at-bats with runners on base.