Commentary

Teixeira all business about heroics

He and Damon rock new Yankee Stadium as Yankees sweep momentum-shifting series

Originally Published: August 9, 2009
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- As the ball traveled high and far into the night, Mark Teixeira gripped his bat, holding on until he was sure his shot was fair and gone into right field. The Yankees' first baseman then pumped his fist and lifted his hands above his head. The noise in the new stadium was booming, and Teixeira, the Yankees' $180 million man, had just stuck it to the archrival.

"Pandemonium," said Johnny Damon, who had homered two pitches earlier to tie the game at 2 -- the sixth time he and Teixeira have gone back-to-back this year, a new team record.

As for Teixeira? He rounded the bases after his go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, fell into a swarming mass of celebrating teammates in the dugout, then took his curtain call -- the third of the night for the Yankees. The team had just watched Victor Martinez give Boston a 2-1 lead in the eighth on a two-run shot.

First it was Damon, then it was Teixeira. The new stadium was possibly as loud as it's ever been, and it reminded Teixeira of games as an opponent in the old stadium, when the elation of a walk-off hit or big home run would shake the old structure to its core.

[+] EnlargeMark Teixeira
William Perlman/US PRESSWIREMark Teixeira had one of three curtain calls Sunday night for the Yankees.
"That," he said, "was kind of the [same] feeling tonight."

In the end it was a 5-2 win for the Yankees, a four-game sweep of the Red Sox, and a 6½-game division lead -- their biggest in three years. Even more ominous for Boston, New York has never lost a division lead of six or more games.

Now, the Red Sox head home having designated future Hall of Famer John Smoltz for assignment, carrying an injury list that continues to expand, and facing the task of trying to dent the Yankees' new lead. This, after Boston had suffered the indignity of not scoring for 31 innings until Martinez's shot.

"In some ways, it's a lot easier to lose a game 10-0 because you're never really in it," said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay. "It's just kind of a situation when things aren't going good, they really aren't going good, and we're in that spot right now."

Since Boston owner John Henry lost out this past winter in the Teixeira sweepstakes, how must he have felt as he watched the first baseman's feat? Earlier this year, after the Red Sox had improved to 8-0 against the Yankees, Henry posted a message on his Twitter account, saying: "The MT curse?"

Teixeira was not amused.

"How old is Mr. Henry?" he said. "There's no reason for me to get into any war of words with some 70-something-year-old man. It doesn't make any sense."

It was out of character for Teixeira to say anything controversial, and he has since insisted that the spat is over and old news. Yet even a few months later, the reminders are there. When a reporter asked Teixeira about the curse comment after New York's 13-6 win in the series opener on Thursday night, he ended the interview.

On Sunday night, he was not asked about curses, Henry or his reasons for choosing New York over Boston. Instead, Teixeira evaluated his at-bat against rookie Daniel Bard. After watching Damon homer on a fastball, Teixeira thought to himself that Bard likely wouldn't want to throw another one right away. Teixeira guessed right: curveball, called strike one.

Teixeira remembered seeing a few curveballs from Bard on Friday night. He surmised the rookie might throw another one. He did, and it was in the exact same location as the first pitch.

"I was kind of looking for it again," said Teixeira, who was 6-for-17 in the four-game series.

"He timed it as good as you can; he was sitting on it," Bard added.

This is why Teixeira was brought to the Bronx on an eight-year, $180 million deal. It was his American League-leading 29th home run. He is also hitting .286 and leading the club with 83 RBIs and a .563 slugging percentage. Damon called him an MVP candidate. Bay said nothing Teixeira does surprises him. "There's a reason why so many teams were trying to sign him," Bay said.

But there would be no boasting after this series. There were no proclamations made in the clubhouse, no raucous scenes, no real celebrating. The Yankees know there is still much of the season left. And they also know that they've got the $180 million man, who just played a big role in what Yankees manager Joe Girardi said were the most energizing games played in the new park.

"Johnny hit a strike, I hit a strike," Teixeira said, "and it kind of rolled from there."

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached via e-mail at amy.k.nelson@espn3.com.

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