07/19/08 7:45 PM ET
Bizarre walk-off lifts Yanks over A's
Molina hit by pitch with bases full to secure win in 12th inning
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Molina's right kneecap was hit by a Lenny DiNardo cutter in the bottom of the 12th inning on Saturday, forcing across the winning run as the Yankees defeated the Oakland A's, 4-3. The hit-by-pitch ended a steamy day in the Bronx that stretched four hours and 45 minutes.
"It feels good, because we won the game," Molina said. "But it hurts."
Working with the bases loaded, DiNardo threw a 1-2 pitch that came inside and clipped Molina, leaving the pitcher glaring with his hands on his hips as the Yankees celebrated. The elapsed time of the game was just five minutes shy of matching Tuesday's epic All-Star Game on the same field.
"I've never been so happy to see somebody get hit," said Derek Jeter, who jogged home from third base. "I really don't think I would've scored if he hit it anywhere else. I was too tired. Any way you can get them, I guess."
The victory set up the first Major League victory for rookie reliever David Robertson, who hurled the 12th inning after Edwar Ramirez offered two scoreless innings. Yet the Yankees had plenty of opportunities to end the game much earlier, stranding a stunning 21 men on base, including 15 through nine innings.
The A's weren't much more efficient; both teams were a combined 5-for-31 with runners in scoring position and combined to leave 35 men on. That saw manager Joe Girardi turn the game over to his bullpen with a 2-1 lead after Joba Chamberlain's six-inning workload was complete; there would be no knockout punch waiting this afternoon.
"You'd like to do it, but it's not going to happen every day," Girardi said. "I feel very good about our bullpen and the way they've been throwing the baseball. I felt comfortable."
As rare as the walk-off hit-by-pitch was -- the last time it happened to a Yankee, the year was 1965 and Clete Boyer took one for the team -- New York's ninth inning also featured perhaps an even more bizarre play.
Pinch-running for Jason Giambi, Justin Christian slipped and fell while attempting to steal second base, plopping in the baseline before scrambling and being tagged out.
"He had it, too," Girardi said of Christian. "That's the shame about it. He had a great jump, and he was going to be safe. You tell a kid, 'Don't make too much of it. The chances of that happening are probably one in a million.'"
The odds were decidedly better when, down to his last strike in the ninth, Robinson Cano reached Huston Street for a two-out double to the gap in left-center field -- one of his four hits, and a ball that likely would have scored Christian. Wilson Betemit followed with a run-scoring single to even the score.
"He's been swinging the bat well," Jeter said of Cano. "When he's hitting the ball the other way, staying up the middle, that's when he's at his best. The times when he has problems is when he's pulling too many balls."
The surge came after All-Star closer Mariano Rivera served up the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Jack Hannahan stroked a leadoff hit and pinch-runner Rajai Davis stole second, with catcher Jorge Posada guarding a bruised right hand. Ryan Sweeney followed with a single down the left-field line that scored the speedy Davis for Sweeney's second RBI of the game.
It was just the sixth earned run Rivera has allowed in 43 1/3 innings this season, and all but one of Rivera's runs allowed have come in non-save situations. Despite that strange statistic, Girardi said, "I'll still take my chances every time."
Behind six innings from Chamberlain, who made his ninth Major League start, the Yankees carried a lead to the seventh before Jose Veras gave it back. Veras loaded the bases on two hits and a walk, then threw a two-out wild pitch that went to the screen, allowing Wes Bankston to trot home.
Chamberlain was finished after six innings, recording his final out on a fastball that registered on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard at 100 mph. Chamberlain allowed one run on six hits, walking one and striking out eight while also hitting a batter. He has seven no-decisions in those nine starts.
"I felt good, but it's your first one coming back [from the All-Star break]," Chamberlain said. "It's hot, and you've got the bullpen behind you throwing well, so it's easy to get a handshake and say, 'Good job.'"
The Yankees stroked four consecutive hits off A's starter Sean Gallagher in the second inning, bringing in their first two runs. Cano singled to left and scored after Betemit's double and Melky Cabrera's single, and Brett Gardner drove in the second run with a double off the pitcher's glove that bounced into left field.
New York could have had more, but Gallagher put an end to the rally, striking out three consecutive Yankees -- Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez -- to escape a second-and-third situation. The Yankees left 10 runners on through five innings against Gallagher, who scattered seven hits, walking four and striking out seven.
"We won the game -- that's all that matters," Girardi said. "For us right now, the bottom line is winning games. We had Gallagher on the ropes a lot of times, and we weren't really able to knock him out. Our guys did a nice job being patient off of him and made him throw a lot of pitches through five innings. We got enough."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.