Robertson proving invaluable for Yanks
Reliever's 'Houdini' acts giving Bombers late-innings lift
ANAHEIM -- It's simple, really. Put two or three runners on base, watch David Robertson wriggle his way out of the jam and then win the game.
"I don't know if it's a formula or not," Robertson said after helping the Yankees tread water long enough to win Saturday night's game against the Angels. "But it seems to have worked out that way."
Twice in the span of eight days, Robertson's escape act has allowed the Yankees to win games they otherwise likely would have lost. It began on Oct. 9 in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Twins, when Robertson entered a tie game with two men on base and no outs, allowed a single to load the bases, and then pulled off the feat that earned him the nickname "Houdini."
First it was a line drive right at first baseman Mark Teixeira, followed by a ground ball that Teixeira scooped up and fired to the plate. Then, with two outs, Robertson induced Brendan Harris to fly out, prompting Yankees play-by-play man John Sterling to exclaim into his microphone, "He's going to get out of it!"
Moments later, Teixeira made Robertson the winning pitcher when he smashed a ball into the left-field seats for a wild walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium.
It was equal parts luck and skill, and it appeared at the time to be one-of-a-kind. Only Robertson proved otherwise in the early morning hours Sunday, putting two men on with one out in Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Angels.
The next hitter, Torii Hunter, bounced a ball to shortstop for the second out, before Angels cleanup hitter Vladimir Guerrero hit an inning-ending grounder to Robinson Cano at second.
Robertson, the last regular reliever left in the bullpen, then watched as Jerry Hairston Jr. raced home with the winning run in the bottom half of the 13th, making Robertson a winner yet again.
"How many games is that now we've won like this?" Robertson said afterward. "It's amazing. I can't believe were able to do it over and over again."
Don't be modest, David -- a large chunk of the credit goes to you. A late addition to the playoff roster after proving that his tight right elbow had healed, Robertson made the cut in large part due to his knack for striking people out -- 63 of them over 43 2/3 innings in the regular season.
And just like that, the Yankees have thrown him in the fire. Because Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have entrenched themselves as late-inning setup men for New York this postseason, and because the club has played almost exclusively close games so far this October, both of Robertson's appearances have come in rather tight spots. Many 24-year-olds might crack under such pressure.
Not Robertson, who, when asked about his secret, said simply: "Just try to breathe. That works real well."
"He has done tremendous," closer Mariano Rivera said, lumping Robertson in with Chamberlain and Hughes. "The important thing about these guys is they don't have too much experience. They go out there and try to do the best they can, and thank God, they've done it."
Robertson, though, unlike Chamberlain and Hughes, has never done this before. He was not here in 2007, when his two bullpen mates received their first dose of postseason baseball against the Indians. Yet manager Joe Girardi has not hesitated to use him late in close games, such as in the 11th inning of a tie game in the ALDS and the 13th inning of a tie game against the Angels.
Rather than fold, Robertson has thrived.
"I think the confidence that they gain during that time in an important series, in big games, is helping them out right now," Girardi said. "I think David Robertson is a prime example in what he's been able to do in the couple of games that he's pitched. His first playoff taste, he won against Minnesota, and he won [Saturday] night. He's been very, very good."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.