NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius suppressed his smile for as long as he could.
His teammates had spilled onto the field. The lights atop the Yankee Stadium façade were flashing. Gregorius' walk-off home run in the six-run ninth inning had sealed the Yankees' 9-7, comeback win over the Rangers on Wednesday night, but the shortstop showed no emotion as he rounded first base and headed toward second.
Yet when he reached third base and saw his teammates crowding home, he couldn't contain himself. He slapped five with third-base coach Joe Espada and flung his helmet to the side before high stepping into a mosh pit. The party was on.
"As soon as I rounded third and I saw all the guys, I had to smile," Gregorius said.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees had not come back from a deficit of four or more runs in the ninth inning or later since Sept. 22, 2012, against the A's. The last time the Yankees scored six or more runs in an inning to win in the ninth or later was against the Indians on April 19, 2007, when they were down 6-2 and scored six in the ninth to win, 8-6, with Alex Rodriguez hitting a walk-off three-run homer off Joe Borowski, who gave up all six runs.
It was the first time in a few days the Yankees had reason to smile. They entered the contest having lost three in a row, including the first two games of the Rangers series.
They dropped the series opener Monday after a three-hour, 35-minute rain delay gave way to the Rangers scoring four runs in the top of the ninth to steal a win. Tuesday brought a 7-1 loss and an injury to Carlos Beltran, the team's best hitter this season.
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The third game didn't start out any more promising. Masahiro Tanaka put the Yankees' offense in a hole, allowing six runs over six innings as New York fell behind, 6-1. The offense slowly fought back, with Chase Headley producing a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Brian McCann ripping a solo shot in the eighth to sandwich a home run by Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.
So by the time Rangers closer Sam Dyson entered the game with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the ninth, much of the announced crowd of 39,875 had departed. Dyson had blown one save in 17 tries, and the Rangers were leading 7-3.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi stayed optimistic.
"You know if you get a couple guys on, you get some guys coming up that could hit the ball out of the ballpark," Girardi said. "And that's what we did."
Rob Refsnyder scored when center fielder Ian Desmond made an error on Brett Gardner's single to cut the Rangers' lead to three. After Rodriguez lined out, McCann stepped into the box.
The catcher appeared to injure his left knee rounding the bases the previous inning, but said it felt fine once he squatted down to catch. There was no such trouble when he circled the diamond one inning later, having tied the game at 7 with a three-run blast. It was the first time a Yankee had hit a game-tying home run in the ninth with the team down by three runs since Shelley Duncan on Aug. 15, 2007, against the Orioles.
It was then that Gregorius stepped into the on-deck circle.
"I just wanted to get an at-bat, I'm not going to lie," Gregorius said. "I was really ready to go in there."
After Dyson walked Starlin Castro on five pitches, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux walked to the mound for support before heading back to the dugout.
Gregorius hacked at the first pitch he saw and dropped his bat. He tried as hard as he could not to grin.
"This is what we needed," Gregorius said.