Commentary

Jorge saves day against Tampa Bay

Yankees back atop AL East behind veteran catcher's 10th-inning blast Tuesday

Updated: September 15, 2010, 11:32 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jorge Posada pummeled the New York Yankees' misery. He slammed it so hard, misery never had a chance. He obliterated it.

With the Yankees losers of seven of eight and four in a row and having relinquished a six-run lead Tuesday, Posada led off the 10th inning with a pinch-hit solo shot off Tampa Bay Rays reliever Dan Wheeler that cleared the 404-foot wall and smashed off the blue Rays sign way above it.

Misery left the Yankees' clubhouse for a night.

"He crushed it," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said after the Bombers' 8-7 extra-inning win over the Rays. "It was exactly what we needed."

[+] EnlargeJorge Posada
J. Meric/Getty ImagesThe Yankees entered Tuesday having lost four consecutive games.

Posada put a hammer to it, while defensive replacement Greg Golson made sure all the nails were set. After Mariano Rivera allowed Carl Crawford to single and steal second with one out in the ninth, Matt Joyce lifted a fly ball to Golson in right.

Crawford -- thinking his legs could outrun the age-old axiom of never making the final out at third -- took off. Alex Rodriguez, who waited at the base for Golson's throw, would describe what happened in a way only A-Rod could or would.

"Who would have thought that Greg Golson would make a great play in a middle of a pennant race?" Rodriguez said.

Rivera, in a characteristically more respectful way, didn't know about Golson's gun but was very appreciative, especially since Evan Longoria had just missed a game-winning homer moments earlier.

Golson -- with a nice tag from "Mr. Compliment," A-Rod -- ended the game. How would Golson describe the greatest moment of his 14-game career?

"The best way to describe it is, 'Yes!'" Golson said.

Curtis Granderson -- who had made the catch of the year an inning earlier -- and the rest of the Yankees celebrated the throw of the year.

They knew this would have been a bad loss. It would have been the fifth straight on this nine-game trip with the topper being blowing a 6-0 fifth-inning lead.

Instead, the rested bullpen pitched lights out after Yankees rookie starter Ivan Nova lost it in the fifth. Instead of cruising, the Yankees turned this game into another classic.

The Rays-Yankees games are like matchups with the Red Sox when both teams are at their peak. They are never over. They always go longer than the DVR allots. And they are great theater.

The Yankees and Rays play again Wednesday night, then it is four next week in the Bronx, and there very well could be more for a trip to the World Series. Right now, they are deciding who would get to host a Game 7.

If the Yankees are going to be the ones, they are going to have to find some starting pitching. Andy Pettitte got through his final minor league rehab outing fine and is expected to start Sunday in Baltimore. Nova hurt his chances of getting a postseason start, but, at this point, with what pitching coach Dave Eiland calls his fearless attitude, is probably a surer bet for the postseason roster than, say, Javier Vazquez.

Nova and the Yankees looked as if they would cruise. They darted out to a 6-0 lead, using long balls from Robinson Cano and Rodriguez. Cano, who was working four hours before the first pitch with hitting coach Kevin Long, concentrating on pulling the ball, jacked a two-run shot to right in the third. Rodriguez nailed a solo shot in the fifth.

Meanwhile, Nova, throwing fearlessly once again, was mowing down the Rays -- pitching in trouble, but escaping. Then the bottom of the fifth happened.

The Rays started knocking balls all over the park, scoring seven runs. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, doing one of the things he does better than any manager ever, took Nova out after 4 2/3 innings with the lead. Tuesday marked the fourth time Girardi has removed a starter after 4 2/3 innings and with a chance to win, which is the most in baseball.

The Rays had Nova reeling, so Girardi had justification on this move. He brought in lefty Boone Logan, who apparently didn't have a red star next to his name.

Girardi, still trying to explain Monday's Chad Gaudin-Sergio Mitre daily double, said during his pregame session that each day he is handed a list of his relievers. The ones with red stars are not to be used.

When Logan came in, it became four appearances in five days, but he wasn't a no-go on Girardi's star chart because he had pitched to only one batter Monday. Logan -- who had 25 straight scoreless outings -- would end up giving a three-run homer to Willy Aybar. Suddenly, the Yankees had scoreboard whiplash and were trailing 7-6.

They quickly got the run back on a Cano double, and then it became a bullpen battle. Joba Chamberlain, well rested after Girardi's strange decision Monday, looked crisp with two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh.

Kerry Wood entered for the third time in four games, which supposedly should have put him on Girardi's star chart but didn't.

"He's more mature," Girardi said in way of explanation.

Whatever the case, Wood threw up a zero.

In the ninth, David Robertson, who had the red star next to his name Monday, came in and pitched his own perfect inning. He got some help as Granderson made the Yankees catch of the year to end the inning.

On a Ben Zobrist line shot to the right-center field gap, Granderson sprinted all out, leaped with his body parallel to the ground and made a catch that would make an All-Pro wide receiver jealous.

But it was Posada off the bench that nailed misery like a pinata for the Yankees. He smashed it into small pieces with his 10th-inning drive.

"That's a huge home run for us," Girardi said.

Misery was put to bed for a night. On Wednesday, the Yankees are going to work on waking up momentum.

Game notes
Derek Jeter has looked better at the plate the past three days. He went 2-for-5 on Tuesday, raising his average to .262. ... Golson played in 18 minor league games in right this season. He is usually a center fielder.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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