NEW YORK -- It took five tries and a trip to both ballparks, but the Yankees finally managed to beat the A’s in 2019. The wait was well worth it, as they made it happen in walk-off fashion on Saturday.
With a stalemate still in place in the bottom of the 11th inning, DJ LeMahieu came out swinging at the first pitch and smashed a solo homer to right-center field to give the Yanks a 4-3 victory at Yankee Stadium.
“[I was thinking] ‘Yes, let’s go home!’” manager Aaron Boone said. “I mean, you play extra innings, long season, anytime you know the game’s ending on a play like that, especially a game that was a grind with a lot of big plays on both sides, everyone has a little exhale and a smile. Finally got one against those guys.”
LeMahieu hadn’t managed a hit all day to that point, going 0-for-4 in his previous plate appearances, including three strikeouts, but his first knock couldn’t have come at a better time. It was the third walk-off hit of his career and the fifth walk-off win overall this season for the Yankees.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 7-2 in extra-inning games this season, and they topped off a strong August with a 21-9 record -- their most victories in a calendar month since August 2009, the year they last won the World Series.
“We were going crazy. I was on deck, so I had a perfect view of it. I threw my bat and helmet in the air and got ready for the celebration,” said right fielder Aaron Judge. “[LeMahieu has] been a great piece to this team, what he’s done day in and day out, when he’s feeling good, not feeling good -- he always produces. And that’s what you look for in a baseball player and a teammate.”
Even as the game passed the four-hour mark, LeMahieu wasn’t really thinking about ending it so abruptly. As the leadoff man in the frame, he was just trying to put the ball in play to start a rally for the Yanks. But when his hit found a place in the seats instead, he wasn’t exactly mad about it.
“It was a pretty good feeling,” LeMahieu said. “[I] didn’t really help the team at the plate too much today, so it was good to come through there at the end. I think I get in trouble when I try to do too much. I think that goes for a lot of guys, so I was just trying to see a pitch to hit and hit it hard.”
LeMahieu wasn’t the only one who showed a penchant for heroics on Saturday, as the Yankees needed every run they could scratch together to finally overcome the A’s. It just so happened that all four on the scoreboard came via the long ball, which gave New York a grand total of 74 in August, adding to its Major League record for home runs in a calendar month.
While the rest of his teammates were stymied by Oakland starter Homer Bailey, striking out nine times and managing only two hits through 5 2/3 innings against him, Gary Sánchez had no such problem, providing a pair of solo shots to keep the Yanks in it early after starter Domingo Germán gave up a two-run homer to Matt Olson in the fourth inning.
“I believe he got Bailey over there in Oakland too,” Boone said. “[They were] both breaking balls and he just saw them good as they broke into the zone. [It’s] patented Gary where he just drops the head on a breaking ball down and in, and then he did a really good job getting another out and over the other way.
“It’s good to see him do that because we know he’s capable of going out to all fields, and usually when he’s driving the ball that way, he’s in a good spot.”
Judge came through with the other timely homer for the Yankees with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, smacking a ball to deep right field to tie the game after the A’s took the lead again in the prior inning. It was his seventh career homer to tie the game or give the Yanks the lead in the eighth inning or later.
“That was an important game for us. This team battled until the very end,” Judge said. “We scratched a couple runs when we needed it, and DJ finished it.”