YANKEES 5, WHITE SOX 2 (10 Innings)
With the rain coming down steadily and the wind blowing in like a gale from leftfield, down to his last strike with two out and two runners on in the 10th inning, Robinson Cano had just one thought on his mind: Look for a pitch to drive towards right.
He got the pitch he wanted and he did with it exactly what he wanted.
Cano’s three-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center gave the New York Yankees a thrilling 5-2 walk-off victory in 10 innings over the visiting Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
“It’s exciting,” Cano told MLB.com. “You run around the bases and see the fans clapping and all your teammates at the plate. It’s something that you sometimes can’t describe. It’s great.”
Cano’s 21st home run of the season in the bottom of the 10th inning on a 2-2 fastball from lefty Randy Williams (0-1) gave the Yankees their 12th walk-off victory of the season, their highest total since they notched 13 victories in 1978.
The win also allowed the Yankees to maintain their six-game lead in the American League East over the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 on Friday night.
For Cano, the home run was a bit of redemption for a season marked by his inability to hit with runners on base. In fact, in the fifth inning, Cano left the bases loaded by dribbling a weak grounder to White Sox starter Mark Buehrle to end a scoring threat.
“I was looking for something right in the middle,” said Cano. “I’ve been struggling with men on base, and I just wanted to do something where I could go up and swing the bat.”
“The thing about Robbie is, he’s going to put the ball in play,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to MLB.com. “A lot of times, he’s going to hit it hard. He hasn’t had the most luck this year of guys. But he put a great swing on that ball, and it was a no-doubter when he hit it.”
Cano, as the night’s hero, received a raucous mauling by his teammates at home plate at Yankee Stadium and later received the traditional shaving cream pie to the face delivered with enthusiasm by A.J. Burnett.
The Yankees actually opened the scoring off Buehrle early in the game. Derek Jeter greeted the veteran left-hander with a blast to leftfield on his fourth offering of the game. Jeter’s home run, the 17th of the season, was also the 223rd of his career to move him past Don Mattingly for 10th place on the all-time Yankees home run list.
In the third, Johnny Damon led off the inning with a lined shot to right that barely cleared the wall into the first row of the bleachers for his 23rd home run of the season, one away from his career best set in 2006. Buehrle, who now has not won a game in seven starts since he pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, was quickly down 2-0.
The way that CC Sabathia was pitching, it looked as if that would be all the runs the left-hander would need to beat the White Sox. Through six innings, Sabathia had allowed four hits and no walks and had struck out 10 batters, tying his season high.
Sabathia was dominant and looking invincible on his way to a major league-leading 16th victory until the seventh inning.
Jermaine Dye opened the frame with a ringing double to right-center. After a walk, Dye came into to score on a double from an old Yankees nemesis, Alex Rios. But with runners at second and third and no outs, Sabathia went to work and looked like he would have a chance to escape the inning with a 2-1 lead.
Sabathia got Alexei Ramirez out on a liner to Cano. Ramon Castro followed with a bouncer to third and Alex Rodriguez cut down Carlos Quentin with a throw to home plate and Rios remained at second base.
Jayson Nix followed with a grounder right down the third base line that Rodriguez dove for and stopped from reaching the outfield to save a run. But now the bases were loaded.
Sabathia then gave up a lined single to right to Gordon Beckham that scored Rios from third but Nick Swisher cut down Castro at the plate with a one-hop throw to Jose Molina to end the inning. But the game was now tied.
“I really can’t be too upset,” said Sabathia, who threw 113 pitches and remained undefeated in his past six starts. “They put some good at-bats together; give them credit.”
“CC’s been our guy, there’s no doubt,” Swisher said to MLB.com. “When we’re out there, we give him the best of what we’ve got.”
The Yankees bullpen took over in the eighth inning and kept the White Sox scoreless while hoping that the Yankees’ offense would win the game.
Phil Hughes faced three batters in the eighth who had combined to hit 70 home runs this season — Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Dye — and he struck out all three swinging to lower his ERA this season to 1.23 as a reliever.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth and Brian Bruney (4-0) retired all three batters he faced in the 10th inning to pick up the win in relief.
“We’d rather win them earlier than walk-offs,” Bruney told MLB.com. “That means we’ve been in a lot of close games. I think for the bullpen, that’s beneficial.
“We’re pitching in a lot of tight games like it’s going to be in the playoffs. Fortunately, we’re getting our reps in, but obviously we’d like to win those earlier in the game.”
The Yankees will try to make it two in a row on Saturday afternoon when they send Sergio Mitre (2-1, 6.82 ERA) to the mound. In his last start on Aug. 15 in Seattle, Mitre pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits to log his second win.
He will face former Yankee right-hander Jose Contreras (5-12, 5.09 ERA). In his last start, Contreras gave up seven runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings against Red Sox at Fenway Park last Monday. Manager Ozzie Guillen originally said Contreras would move to the bullpen but decided to give him a reprieve. Contreras is 2-5 with a 4.20 ERA against his former team.
Friday night’s game was played in steady downpour and the forecast for Saturday is not good. Tropical Storm Danny is expected to cause windy and rainy conditions for the next two days in New York.
Weather permitting, gametime is 1 p.m. EDT.