04/22/09 8:41 PM ET
Melky's homer gives Yanks walk-off win
Cabrera's shot in 14th ends Stadium's first extra-inning game
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
A record-setting 26th Bronx home run belonged to Melky Cabrera, who belted his second roundtripper of the afternoon and ended the first extra-innings affair at the new ballpark, lifting the Yankees to a 9-7 victory over the A's in the bottom of the 14th inning.
"I knew it was gone and I knew that we won," said Cabrera, who cracked the decisive shot off former Yankee Dan Giese. "I was just trying to get on base and make good contact. I've worked really hard to get to where I am right now."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 26 home runs in Yankee Stadium's first six games surpassed the total hit at Kansas City's Municipal Stadium in 1955 for the most hit in the first six games at a new big league venue.
Cabrera's line drive into the right-field porch ended a four-hour, 57-minute game that showcased 7 1/3 innings of scoreless relief from the Yankees' bullpen -- including 3 1/3 frames from winning pitcher Jose Veras -- after a troublesome start from staff ace CC Sabathia.
"The only reason we're allowed to play 14 innings is because our bullpen stepped up and did a great job," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Everyone in that bullpen did a great job today. We can't do it without them."
After Sabathia labored through a seven-run outing, twice giving back Yankees leads, Girardi proceeded to use most of his bullpen to hold the A's at bay. The relief award went to Veras, who was charged with the loss in the Opening Day game at the Stadium but threw 46 pitches to record 10 outs in this one.
"I feel real happy," Veras said. "I let my team down the first game of the season here at Yankee Stadium, and I knew I had to do something good for my team to pick up the bad. I feel really good today."
Each Yankees starter had a hit in setting the set the stage for Cabrera, who had also homered in the second inning off A's starter Brett Anderson, the second half of a back-to-back duo with Hideki Matsui.
With Nick Swisher aboard and one out against Giese, a journeyman right-hander who was in camp with the Yankees this year, Cabrera laced into a 1-0 offering and sent it into the sparsely populated seats for his second career walk-off home run and his first career multihomer game.
"The manager showed enough confidence that he puts me in when he has to, and I'm able to do what I have to do," Cabrera said. "Any way the manager wants to use me, I'll be ready. I've accepted this and I just want to be able to help the team."
Cabrera lost out to Brett Gardner in a spring bid to be the Yankees' Opening Day center fielder, but he is hitting .304 with four home runs and figures to see more duty now that the Yankees are without Xavier Nady for an indefinite period of time.
"He's been very productive the whole year for us, and with some of the injuries we've had, he's been very important to us," Girardi said of Cabrera. "Just because we decided to go with Brett didn't mean he wasn't going to play an important role with this team. You need every guy."
Though he popped out with the bases loaded in the seventh, Derek Jeter twice gave the Yankees the lead, coming through with a solo home run in the fourth and a run-scoring double in the sixth.
For the second time in the inaugural homestand at Yankee Stadium, umpires used video review to uphold a home run call. Crew chief Gerry Davis authorized a replay of Kurt Suzuki's three-run homer in the second inning, as a fan in the front row caught the ball above a leap by left fielder Johnny Damon. After a brief delay, the play stood as originally called.
"It's so hard to tell where the fan's hands are. I saw Johnny go up and the ball disappeared," Girardi said. "There's no way I can really tell from where I'm standing. It looks a little different. They said it was clearly a home run and they got the call right."
The game progressed so deep into the afternoon, in part, because Sabathia was not able to make leads of 5-4 and 7-5 hold up against the Oakland offense. Sabathia allowed seven runs on six hits, turning in a laborious 6 2/3-inning, 112-pitch outing.
"I'm trying to be too fine -- throw it right to the corners, make a perfect pitch," Sabathia said. "I need to just go out and attack hitters in the zone. Sometimes you get into that, where your command is good in the bullpen and you want to make a pitch on the corner for strike one, instead of breaking the plate down into thirds."
While Sabathia walked four and struck out two, he also had some shaky third-inning defense on a cool, rainy afternoon in the Bronx. Damon dropped a routine Jason Giambi fly ball, Matt Holliday followed with a single off third baseman Cody Ransom's glove and Jack Cust reached on a fielder's choice when Jeter threw to an unoccupied home plate after catcher Jorge Posada had left to back up first base.
"I've got to stay home, because Jason stayed," Posada said. "As soon as the ball was hit to CC, I said, 'Two, two, two,' but then Jason didn't break. Instinct just takes you to first base and I got caught in no man's land."
The left-hander carried a two-run lead into the seventh inning, but Oakland tied it on a run-scoring Giambi groundout and Holliday's RBI single up the middle, bringing Girardi out to fetch Sabathia amid a smattering of boos.
"He was a little off today," Girardi said. "He wasn't as sharp as he's been, but I thought he battled through it. When you look at the scoreboard and it says five runs and four hits, you know something's a little strange."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.