Yankees Dump Rays Just In ‘Nick Of Time’


After the New York Yankees signed Mark Teixeira in January, Nick Swisher was left without a starting role. 
Now in the stretch drive to the playoffs, the Yankees can’t imagine where they would we be without him.
The 29-year-old switch-hitter, who replaced an injured Xavier Nady as the Yankees’ right-fielder in April, hit a pair of solo home runs, including the game-winner with one out in the ninth on Tuesday night, as the Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2.
The victory was the Yankees’ 90th victory of the season and their third straight home victory, all against the Rays, who now have lost seven in a row and find their hopes of winning the American League wild card fading fast.
The Yankees, meanwhile, won their 47th game at home, one shy of their total from last season, and maintained their commanding nine-game lead in the American League East over the second-place Boston Red Sox, who drubbed the hapless Baltimore Orioles 10-0.
Swisher’s dramatics were somewhat unexpected because he is the only player in team history to hit 21 of his first 24 homers on the road. This despite the fact that Yankee Stadium has been a homer haven to the Yankees as a team.
With the game tied at 2, Rays right-hander Dan Wheeler (4-4) opened the ninth inning by retiring Alex Rodriguez on an infield grounder. Swisher then stepped to the plate and, with 45,350 in attendance at Yankee Stadium, he lined a 1-0 fastball into the first row in the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees another walk-off victory.

“I think when you get in a situation like that, you’re looking for guys like Johnny [Damon], or [Rodriguez] or Melky [Cabrera],” Swisher told MLB.com.

“The guys have been busting me a little bit, saying, ‘Hey, you’re at home — you already hit your one [homer] for the month. You’re done,'” said Swisher. “So it was nice to get that second one.”

“You really have to be fine with these guys,” Wheeler said. “Talk about a great lineup — any one of them can do it. You just have to make your pitches. That was the one pitch I didn’t make, and it just got out.”

The Rays had tied the game in the top of the eighth inning when Jason Bartlett homered into the left-field stands on Phil Hughes’ first delivery of the game. Hughes had not been scored upon in 12 consecutive outings. 

Hughes, who entered the game with a 1.08 ERA in 33 appearances out of the bullpen, was not concerned about the home run. He was more focused on the result of the game.

“It seems like it’s been everybody in here [picking the team up] at one time or another,” Hughes said to MLB.com. “Not everybody’s going to perfect every night, sometimes we got to pick each other up.”

The Bartlett home run also cost Yankees starter Chad Gaudin a victory. Gaudin, who was inserted into the rotation because of Monday’s doubleheader, was brilliant through six innings.

“Gaudin was outstanding,” manager Joe Girardi said. “His ball was down, his slider was very good, his sinker was very good and his changeup had a bite to it as well. He attacked the zone.” 

Gaudin had shut out the Rays on just four hits and one walk and struck out six batters. But he ran into trouble in the seventh inning while trying to hold a 2-0 lead. 

van Longoria opened the inning with a long home run to left. Ben Zobrist followed with a single and Gaudin then walked Pat Burrell. So Girardi played mix and match with the bullpen with Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney and Phil Coke all brought in to retire one batter apiece.

Coke ended the inning by retiring Akinori Iwamura on a grounder to short with the bases loaded to preserve Gaudin’s victory at the time.

“I got out there and got us deep into the game, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Gaudin said. “It doesn’t matter if I got the win or not, as long as we win the ballgame.”

While Gaudin was pitching well, his mound opponent David Price was giving the Yankees fits at the plate too. Price’s only mistake in the first five innings was missing his target on a 2-0 fastball to Swisher, who hit a high lofting drive down the line in left-field to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

The Yankees second run came as Price was approaching 100 pitches with two out in the sixth inning. Johnny Damon coaxed a walk on a 3-2 offering. Mark Teixeira then laced a single up the middle.

Rodriguez then battled Price at 2-2 by fouling off two fastballs before turning on an inside fastball for a lined single to down the left-field line to score Damon. 

Price recorded the last out of the frame and left having pitched six innings, giving up six hits, two walks and struck out six batters. Three of those strikeouts were of Derek Jeter, who ended the night 0-for-4 again.

That leaves Jeter still three hits away from tying Lou Gehrig’s 2,21 hits on the all-time Yankee list. Since going 3-for-3 on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays, Jeter is 0-for-12 after three games of the 10-game homestand.

“It’s going to happen,” said Swisher to MLB.com. “The great thing about him is that even when he doesn’t get hits, he’s still our team captain. He’s still there rooting guys. He’s a tremendous teammate.”

“He’s getting some ribbing from his teammates,” Girardi said. “But as I said before, this is going to happen.”

Mariano Rivera (3-2) pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up the victory in relief — thanks to Swisher’s dramatic ninth inning home run.

“Swish is on a little run now, and it’s great to see,” said Girardi, who — like Swisher — has no real answer for the outfielder’s power outage at home.

“I’ve been trying to figure it out all year,” Girardi said. “It’s a really strange stat. If he wants to catch up in the month of September, that’s all right with me.”


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