Posada propels Yanks to walk-off win
Catcher caps four-RBI night with game-winning hit in ninth
NEW YORK -- The absence of a certain All-Star third baseman seemed certain to vex the Yankees heading into this season. A monthlong slump for the starting first baseman struck a blow to the offense, as did a major injury to the starting right fielder. And so the nine Bombers who have taken the field on a nightly basis have hardly conjured up images of Murderer's Row.
But the Yankees scored 11 runs on Tuesday evening and another eight the following night. Melky Cabrera, Ramiro Pena and company knocked out seven runs against the Angels on Thursday, and for a Friday encore, they sent 10 men across the plate. By the time Jorge Posada knocked home the winning runs of Friday's 10-9 comeback victory with a walk-off two-run single, it had become clear that this offense was not stalling.
It was thriving.
"We keep fighting, and that's what I like," Posada said. "I think this team has a lot of life."
Consider this: The Yankees trailed the Angels by five runs in this game with only four outs to go. Entering the ninth, they were still behind a run, though the slumping first baseman -- Mark Teixeira -- increased all hope with a six-pitch walk to frazzle closer Brian Fuentes (0-2).
Singles by Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano -- both with no outs -- loaded the bases. And after following the Teixeira blueprint by running the count full, Posada laced a line-drive single into the gap in left-center field.
The comeback was complete. Posada was mobbed. And the Yankees (13-10) had won their fourth game in a row for the first time this season.
"I'm just glad it didn't come down to two outs," left fielder Johnny Damon said. "We were able to do all that without anybody out in the ninth inning. We didn't have to stress too much."
Oh, but they did. New York spent most of nine innings stressing, fretting over an Andy Pettitte start gone awry and a bullpen that seemingly couldn't keep it in the game. Battling for five innings, Pettitte simply "ran out of gas" in the sixth, an inning he began with a four-run lead.
It wasn't entirely his fault. With two outs and a man on first base, Erick Aybar sent a hard hopper to third, where it skidded so nastily that Pena couldn't field it. A walk loaded the bases and ended Pettitte's day, thrusting rookie Mark Melancon into the most precarious spot of his young career.
One pitch later, the Angels (9-13) took their first lead of the day on Gary Matthews' bases-clearing triple. All three of the runs were charged to Pettitte, who was hardly charged himself.
"I was in a real bad mood," Pettitte said, with the perspective of a game-winning rally. "Now, I'm in a great mood."
Mostly every Yankee was in a great mood, for mostly every Yankee contributed. Pena had three hits and drove in two runs in a critical eighth-inning rally. Teixeira, hitless though he was, drew his walk to spark the winning rally. Posada homered in the first inning to supplement his late-game heroics. Cano pushed his average to .378 with three more hits.
About the only Yankee not smiling was the one who has smiled most this month -- Nick Swisher. Hit on the right elbow by a Jered Weaver pitch in the first inning, Swisher left the game prior to the third. And though X-rays were negative, manager Joe Girardi said he didn't expect Swisher to play on Saturday.
It was a bit of a letdown for a team that refused to be let down. Five runs is a weighty deficit to overcome at any point in the game, let alone with only four outs to give. But the Yankees -- minus Alex Rodriguez, minus Xavier Nady and minus a productive Teixeira -- managed to do so in rather effortless fashion.
They never panicked, and -- aside from Pettitte -- they never labored. They simply won.
"We definitely will take it this way," Damon said. "We would have liked to have just cruised and won, 4-0, but this shows that we can come back. We can come back against tough teams, and we do have a lot of weapons on this team that can pitch in and contribute to us."
"The bottom of the lineup has been great," Posada said. "Pena was outstanding today. You have Melky swinging the bat real well. If we keep those guys going, we have a pretty good chance."
For those reasons, the Yankees have now won four straight games, after a debilitating sweep at the hands of the Red Sox. Their issues -- namely, a steady bullpen and corner-infield production -- have been masked by their strengths. And Rodriguez is coming soon. Teixeira is bound to turn a corner soon. The Bombers are primed to continue winning.
"It was a good one for us," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "If they get a lead like that, most of the time, it's over with. But we were able to fight back and get a big win for us."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.