Viciedo could be excused for ending up a little off target with his strike from left. If it wasn't for the immense strength of the Tank, then the American Central-leading White Sox (41-35) would have never been able to roll their way to victory.
Actually, it was Viciedo's game-winning three-run homer in the ninth off of reliever David Robertson (0-2), and Clay Rapada's defense that helped the White Sox improve to 2-30 when trailing after eight innings. Rafael Soriano was unavailable for the Yankees (46-29) after working in four of five games and throwing 30 pitches during Wednesday's victory, so Cody Eppley, who struck out Paul Konerko to strand the tying run at third in the eighth, began the final frame.
Rios promptly singled to left, bringing in the left-handed-throwing Rapada to face the left-handed-hitting A.J. Pierzynski. Rapada jammed Pierzynski on an 0-1 slider, with Pierzynski rolling the ball back to the mound on what should have been a sure force at second and a possible double play.
But the sidearming Rapada threw the ball to the right of Jeter covering second and into center field. That error put runners on the corners with nobody out and set the stage for Viciedo's 14th homer.
"I thought I fielded it very cleanly. I just didn't get my feet going and pushed the ball right into center field," Rapada said. "It's really tough because I executed a pitch that I wanted. I just didn't do my job as a fielder. I really let the team down tonight."
"We got the one break, and he jumped on it," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the ninth-inning rally, referring to the error and the homer.
Viciedo simply was trying to make good contact and looking for a fastball. He got a 90-mph fastball from Robertson and knew what to do with it.
"Anything in the vicinity," said Viciedo through translator and manager of cultural relations Jackson Miranda. "That's what I was thinking."
Hard-hit balls off of Yankees starter Ivan Nova were not an issue for the White Sox. Most of them seemed to find their way to center fielder Curtis Granderson, who finished with seven putouts.
Granderson's most significant catch came in the fourth, when Konerko opened the inning with a double to left-center and Rios sent him to third on his single to right. Pierzynski followed with a lined shot to medium deep center that hung up long enough for Granderson to grab.
Konerko stayed at third, although Granderson's throw on the inning's first out wound up a little wide right of home. Viciedo nailed a lined shot to second baseman Robinson Cano, which Cano caught, and then he doubled off Rios at first.
That missed opportunity left Alejandro De Aza's titanic blast in the fifth off of Nova, the one of his four hits that was not a single, as the only run of support behind rookie starter Dylan Axelrod. Although Axelrod was outstanding against one of the American League's toughest lineups, holding them to six hits over seven innings and 115 pitches, he looked in line for a loss until the ninth.
Instead, Axelrod contributed to a huge White Sox victory in his Yankee Stadium debut.
"Between the lines, it's all the same, and I think I did a good job," said Axelrod, who said he watched a lot of video with Jake Peavy in preparation for this start. "I didn't build this up into something that was too big for me to handle."
"It's one thing for him to go through that lineup once, but once it turns over three, four times, it's tough," Ventura said. "It's a relentless group that takes pitches, sits on pitches. I thought he threw great."
Hector Santiago (2-1) earned the victory, pitching in front of an estimated 50 friends and family members from nearby Newark, with 300 of his closest supporters expected to be on hand Friday. Santiago allowed Mark Teixeira's solo homer after striking out Rodriguez and his friend Cano, but Viciedo helped his cause.
When asked if this exciting late comeback could be a defining victory for the team, Ventura said that decision won't be known for at least a month when what the White Sox did after can be assessed. It almost became a loss, turned momentum-building victory, turned deflating loss if Jeter had a little more height on his final drive.
"They're playing no-doubles, so it either goes out or he catches it," Jeter said. "He caught it. I thought it had a chance, but it didn't happen."
"He's going to hit one to right. Just don't give him something he can do it with," Ventura said. "You don't like him coming up at the end of a game. I've seen it too much."
As for Reed, who thrives on late-inning, game-changing situations, his mood moved from deflated to ecstatic in the matter of a few seconds.