Another walk-off, a new hero for 90-win Yanks

Ford becomes first Yankees rookie ever to slug pinch-hit walk-off HR

September 1st, 2019

NEW YORK -- had three innings of notice to prepare for his pinch-hitting opportunity on Sunday afternoon, and it proved to be the type of moment that the rookie slugger said he has been attempting to picture for years.

After tied the game with a ninth-inning homer, Ford came off the bench and drove a Liam Hendriks offering into the Yankee Stadium bullpen, flipping his bat and breaking into a trot to celebrate the Yankees' 5-4 victory over the Athletics -- their second such win in as many days.

"I don’t think it has set in yet, but I definitely dreamed about it in the past," said Ford, the first Yankees rookie to ever slug a pinch-hit, walk-off homer. "It was just an awesome dream."

The back-to-back blasts from Gardner and Ford echoed an Aug. 8, 2000 game at the old Yankee Stadium, when Bernie Williams and David Justice also led off the ninth inning with consecutive homers to sink the A's. The Yankees are the first team to reach 90 wins this year, while also leading the Majors with 41 comeback victories.

Combined with DJ LeMahieu's walk-off homer on Saturday, the Yankees have won consecutive games on walk-off homers for the first time since May 16-17, 2009, when Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon went deep to dispatch the Twins.

"Our guys have been great at this all year," manager Aaron Boone said. "Whoever we have brought up, they've controlled situations and the moment really well -- maybe beyond their experience."

Despite 's six scoreless innings of one-hit ball, the Yankees trailed by four runs with six outs remaining. With most of his more trusted relievers unavailable, Boone saw Oakland score three seventh-inning runs off Ryan Dull before Matt Olson belted an eighth-inning homer off Chance Adams.

Silenced through seven frames by Sean Manaea and two relievers, the Yankees broke through in the eighth. Two walks and a single loaded the bases, setting up Gleyber Torres' sacrifice fly off Lou Trivino, and Didi Gregorius stroked a two-run single to center field off Hendriks.

"They have some tough arms in the bullpen, but up and down the lineup, guys had good at-bats," Gardner said.

Oakland asked Hendriks for a five-out save, but Gardner ensured it never got close, slugging a 97.8 mph fastball into the right-field seats to tie the game. Hitting in place of Clint Frazier, Ford looked at three straight balls to run the count full, then turned on a 97.6 mph fastball that sparked another wet and wild celebration at home plate.

“The organization does a great job of preparing us, so we’re waiting down there [in the Minors] and if we get our chance, we run with it," Ford said.

There's a Happ for that

Happ said that he was encouraged after completing six innings for just the second time in his last 14 outings, and for only the third time in 15 home starts. Happ equaled a season high with four walks, but he managed to keep Oakland off the scoreboard.

"I’ve been chasing results for a while now; to get some positive ones is great," Happ said. "I’ll try to continue that. Process-wise, it’s not that dissimilar from the way I’ve been throwing the ball, but the results were better so maybe the consistency was a little bit better today."

Happ induced a double-play grounder to end the second inning and pitched out of trouble in the fifth, stranding two men on.

"The couple of times it had a chance to get a little away from him, he buckled in and made a couple great pitches," Boone said. "I thought he was really good. Six innings, no runs; that speaks for itself."

'Pen pals

There were some eyebrows raised when Dull was summoned from the bullpen to make his Yankees debut in a scoreless game, and even more when Sheldon Neuse broke the seventh-inning tie with his first big league hit, a two-run double to right field. Josh Phegley added a run-scoring fielder's choice.

Boone said that he turned to Dull and Adams because most of his relievers were unavailable. The Yankees are the only remaining team not to pitch a reliever three straight days, which automatically ruled out Cory Gearrin and Tommy Kahnle. They also wanted to stay away from Zack Britton after he exited Saturday's appearance with a right calf cramp.

"We knew we didn’t have a lot," Boone said. "We were able to hang around enough."

Home cooking

By taking two of three games from the A's, the Yankees improved to 20-0-3 in their last 23 series at Yankee Stadium. They have not lost a series in The Bronx since the White Sox took two of three games during an April 12-14 set, and they are 51-21 at home overall.

"We've always played well at home," Gardner said. "I feel like this year especially we've played great here. Our fans were great today. We believe in ourselves, down to the very end, even if we're down by a few runs. We feed off that. It was a fun day."