10/20/09 7:03 PM ET
Teixeira's D helps make up for slump
Slugger having big impact at first while scuffling at plate
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
For as Teixeira said about a rejuvenated Vladimir Guerrero following Game 3, "You're not going to keep good hitting down."
When it comes to Teixeira, however, he can make a plenty big impact on the success of the Yankees without his normally potent offense.
Teixeira is not just a good defender, but a superb one, as evidenced by the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards he won in 2005-06.
While Mariano Rivera's great escape in the 10th inning of Game 3 -- runners at the corners with nobody out in a tie game -- was impressive, it would not have been possible without Teixeira's glove work.
In particular, he made a dazzling snare down the line to rob Chone Figgins of a walk-off hit for the first out of the 10th, pump-faking as if he was going to throw to the plate, which froze Jeff Mathis at third. Teixeira then tapped the bag with his glove for the out. He also got Torii Hunter's groundout and fired to the plate for the force, and ranged to his right to snag Guerrero's ground ball and raced to the bag to end the inning. Though the Yankees lost the game in 11 innings, Teixeira gave them another crack thanks to his work in the 10th.
"It was getting busy over there," said Teixeira of his glove work in the 10th. "That was an incredible job by Mo coming in and getting it done there. He never ceases to amaze you."
But the same has been true of Teixeira, who normally doesn't get a lot of notice for his defense because of his status as an elite hitter.
"He's outstanding," said Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. "He saved [Game 3] a couple of times. Tex is a great player and we're happy to have him here."
The Angels were the beneficiaries late last summer of not just Teixeira's big bat, but his stingy glove, as well.
"I think when he's struggling at the plate, he's one of the players in this league that's not going to take a pitch off defensively," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "He's going to be in every game, because it's two separate parts of what he brings. I can't tell you how impressed we were just seeing him up close in the couple months we had him last year. Just how hard he works on his defense, how much pride he takes in it, and the difference maker he is."
First base is usually a position for the sluggers, which Teixeira is. But what is far more uncommon at first is to also be a defensive standout.
"[It's] a position where it's probably a little tougher to be a difference-maker than if you play shortstop, center field, catcher or second base," Scioscia said. "But he certainly is. And he takes pride and works harder, and he's obviously had a major impact on a lot of situations that have already happened in just the three games we've played them on the defensive side."
Offensively speaking, Teixeira went just 1-for-13 in the first three games of the ALCS. In his first six games of this postseason, he is hitting .120 (3-for-25), though one of his hits was a walk-off homer to beat the Twins in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.
"I tried to do the best I can out there. I haven't been getting it done offensively," Teixeira said. "When I can step up and play solid defense, it really helps the team out."
Until the hits start coming, the Yankees expect Teixeira will keep playing top-notch defense.
"Well, I mean there's a lot of ways that you can win a ballgame," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "It just doesn't always have to be with your bat. Tex has saved us defensively during this series a number of times. ... He's another guy that the law of averages is he's going to start getting some base hits. And [Game 4] would be a great night to start. But if it doesn't, I know in my heart that it's going to happen."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.