Yanks walk off on error to gain in Wild Card
Headley's grounder scores game-winner; NY five games behind A's
NEW YORK -- Manager Joe Girardi was a realist before Thursday's 3-2 walk-off victory over the Blue Jays. He conceded that his team's chances of making the playoffs "aren't great," with just under a dozen games left on the calendar. But, embodying the spirit of shortstop Derek Jeter, Girardi also played optimist, admitting there was still a chance.
That optimism was rewarded at least for one night when the Yankees caught a bounce their way, this time on a Chase Headley ninth-inning ground ball off Aaron Sanchez that scooted underneath first baseman Adam Lind, scoring Antoan Richardson from third base to salvage an opener that was in their control for most of the night.
"It's nice to get a break," said Headley.
"I don't know," Lind said. "It happened so fast. Basically, I did not make the play."
The walk-off win was the team's eighth of the year (Headley's third with the Yanks) and brought the Yankees to within five games of the A's for the second American League Wild Card spot.
"It's great when you get those hits, you come through, it's a great feeling," said Headley. "I think obviously tonight it was about the guys before me."
Chris Young began the ninth with a single to center, and Richardson stole second base three pitches later as a pinch-runner. After two unsuccessful bunt attempts, Brett Gardner connected on the third, moving Richardson to third base and setting up the heroics that sent the remainder of the 34,279 into a frenzy.
It was needed when Shawn Kelley inherited and then blew a two-run lead in the eighth inning, leaving a two-strike fastball in the hitting zone of Jose Bautista, who got just enough to send it over the left-field wall, tying the game.
Before that, the Yankees had little success against Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey. Stephen Drew opened the Yankees' scoring with a two-out RBI double to right in the fifth inning. An inning later, Jeter, playing in the final homestand of his career, provided some momentary eruption, turning on a 3-1 fastball and putting his fourth home run of the year -- his first at Yankee Stadium this season -- several rows deep in left.
"This is not an easy game to play," said Jeter, who entered the game in a 1-for-30 funk. "Obviously, this year up to this point hasn't turned out how I would have liked it to, but you've got to keep fighting, you've got to keep battling. I'm going to play hard until we're out of games."
"He has that ability," Girardi said of Jeter's dramatics. "He's a guy you want up with the game on the line in big situations and he's always had that ability."
Yankees righty Shane Greene, meanwhile, provided another solid outing and continued his impressive rookie campaign, shutting down the Blue Jays over 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out six. It was particularly impressive considering his early labors.
Reyes led off the game with a 10-pitch at-bat, and Greene had trouble finding his location while navigating the first several outs, amassing 46 pitches through the first two innings. Then he shifted gears. The righty used nearly the same number -- 45 pitches -- to get through the next four innings before Dellin Betances relieved him to escape a two-out threat.
"I like to say I have a lot of confidence in myself," said Greene. "I've been trying to prove it to myself and everybody else at the same time."
Greene, 25, of course, was never meant to be part of the Yankees' 2014 rotation plans. Neither, technically, was David Phelps nor Brandon McCarthy. But even if this season doesn't extend into October, the Yankees, with veteran Hiroki Kuroda off the books, have to at least consider Greene as an important piece for next year's pitching staff.
"This young man's got four pitches that he can go to," said Girardi. "[He] has confidence in them and has the ability to throw strikes. He's been impressive to me."
CC Sabathia will return next season still harboring permanent knee issues, but the Yankees have had the benefit to see what some of their younger pitchers might be able to provide in his absence. For a team that has consistently fielded veteran players, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, McCarthy, and likely one of either Greene or Phelps should bring both some youth and confidence.
But for now, the Yankees can exhale, still reaching for a playoff spot as they came out on top in the type of game they've seen go against them too many times in the last week.
"Any way you can win," said Jeter. "I don't know how many extra-inning games I have left in me, so I'm happy we won."