Yankees walk off on Mets' two-run error
A-Rod's popup with two outs takes Rivera off hook for loss
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez's healthy cut sent a ball soaring high above Yankee Stadium, and the Mets' hearts must have skipped a beat. From the mound, Francisco Rodriguez prematurely celebrated, pointing skyward to what should have been the 27th and easiest of outs.
It would have been, should have been -- but it wasn't. Moments after A-Rod spiked his bat to the dirt in frustration, Luis Castillo trailed the pellet through the night sky out of the infield, drifting further and further into the emerald green grass.
Two runs raced home as the ball fell safely to the outfield turf after striking Castillo's outstretched glove, a most improbable finish for the first Subway Series game at the new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees stole a 9-8 win over the Mets on Friday, an ending that will be talked about for decades to come.
"I really have never seen that before, and I've played for a long time," A-Rod said. "That's why you play for nine innings -- that's why you play hard. The lesson we take from here is to play all 27 and hustle all the time."
With the Yankees down by a run after David Wright's big RBI double in the eighth inning off Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter logged a one-out single off K-Rod and stole second as pinch-hitter Johnny Damon -- out of the lineup with an eye malady -- struck out swinging against the Mets' closer.
Representing the winning run, Mark Teixeira looked at three balls before the Mets called for the fourth intentionally, believing that working to the still-struggling A-Rod made for a better statistical matchup than facing Teixeira, who earlier belted his American League-leading 20th homer off starter Livan Hernandez. The homer was also Teixeira's 13th in his past 25 games.
Rodriguez thought he worked the count in his favor, getting it to 3-1 before whacking at a 94 mph delivery and sending it airborne. The crowd groaned, expecting an easy out, but Castillo couldn't find it, sprawling to the grass and throwing to second base from his knees.
That gave Teixeira time to chug around third, scoring the winning run by sliding and slapping his left hand on home plate. Jeter hugged Teixeira and the Yankees erupted, reveling in good fortune that was sorely needed after a demoralizing three-game sweep at Fenway Park just 24 hours prior.
"You don't expect it to happen -- you just don't," Teixeira said. "Scoring from first base on a ball to the second baseman? It just doesn't happen very much, especially with me. It's hard for me to score on a hit from second base to the outfield. As soon as I slid in, I hugged Jeet and I said, 'What just happened?' because I couldn't believe it."
"You never assume, but that's about as close as you can come to the game being over," Jeter said. "It's one of those things that happens. You can see that play a thousand more times, and it will never happen again. I guess it answers the question of if we have home-field advantage, because we had some special things happen tonight."
The turn of events left one Rodriguez near first base, his Yankees helmet absorbing slap after slap, uncertain of how he should be reacting after being more lucky than good. But sometimes that's better -- certainly preferable to the situation K-Rod found himself in, stunned at the heart of the infield with his arms strewn over his Mets cap in disbelief.
"I have to catch that ball," Castillo said. "I didn't get it. I feel bad. It was a routine fly ball. I need to get it."
Wright had connected on a go-ahead, run-scoring double to answer the Yankees' eighth-inning call for Rivera, as the Yankees' search for late outs led them to ask their closer for four outs in a tied game.
"I don't mind asking him to get four outs every once in a while," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Where they were in their order, I thought it was time to go to Mo."
But Rivera walked Carlos Beltran before Wright sliced his two-base hit up the right-center-field gap, a pitch that Rivera said the third baseman had clipped solidly.
"As any reliever, you cannot go in there and walk the first guy," Rivera said. "That always happens -- if you walk the guy, they're going to score. And that's what happened. The pitch was a good pitch. He was looking for that and put good wood on the ball."
Wright wasn't alone in making good contact. Five home runs were hit in the game, including Hideki Matsui's sixth-inning, three-run shot, delivered on the slugger's 35th birthday and briefly putting the Yankees ahead by a run.
Robinson Cano, Teixeira and Jeter also belted round-trippers off Hernandez, who allowed six runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings in his Subway Series debut. Gary Sheffield blasted his 505th career home run for the Mets in the fifth inning before doubling and scoring to tie the game in the seventh.
"Of course we feel like we stole one," Jeter said. "Then again, we kept coming back. We're still battling and have been pretty good at playing nine innings. Sometimes it takes us a little more, but one thing about our team is we don't give up. But we were lucky."
The Yankees battled after a wild start by Joba Chamberlain, who -- despite permitting only one hit -- needed 100 pitches to get through four innings. Chamberlain allowed two runs, both of them in a lengthy third frame, when Beltran worked a bases-loaded walk and Ryan Church was hit by an 0-2 breaking ball to force in another run.
At his locker after the thrilling victory, Chamberlain conducted interviews with reporters while tussling the hair of his 3-year-old son, Karter, who had stayed up past his bedtime to see the finish. And it was the younger Chamberlain who summed up his father's effort better than he could himself."
"Hey Daddy," Carter said. "Did you throw the fastball and it wasn't very good?"
"Yeah, the fastball wasn't very good," Chamberlain said, laughing and patting his son's head. "I don't think I really need to say anything else. That's what kids are for. You tell me how it is, buddy."
Brett Tomko took most of the pounding as the Mets rallied for four runs in the fifth inning, highlighted by Church's two-run double and Sheffield's two-run homer inside the left-field foul pole.
It was the Yankees' first victory on a walk-off error since July 7, 2003, when Matsui scored on Todd Walker's throwing error after Curtis Pride put the ball in play against the Red Sox. Coming as the icing on a sloppy night of frustration, the win is one Girardi wasn't sure the Yankees wholly deserved, but it's one they would certainly accept.
"It's hard to believe, because we tried to give the game away all night, and they took advantage of all the mistakes that we made," Girardi said. "And in the end, we got the big gift."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.