Alex Rodriguez continued his monster October with a game-tying homer in the 11th inning and Jerry Hairston Jr. scored the winning run on an error in the 13th, as the Yankees defeated the Angels, 4-3, to secure an unforgettable Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.
As a nerve-racking battle of the bullpens pushed past midnight ET, the Yankees were saved by two players who have spent their careers in search of postseason success: A-Rod -- who has never been this lethal when the games count most -- and Hairston, who had never played a game past No. 162 before this run.
"That's the beautiful thing about the playoffs," said a thoroughly exhausted Derek Jeter, unlacing his shoes and looking over his torn and dirty uniform pants. "It takes 25 guys to win, and you never know when you're going to get that opportunity."
Two innings after A-Rod kept the Yankees alive with an opposite-field shot off Angels closer Brian Fuentes, the Yankees celebrated more walk-off magic when second baseman Maicer Izturis threw away Melky Cabrera's grounder as he tried to force out Robinson Cano at second base.
Home run heroes
It was a game that neither team could even be sure would be played, but a threatening forecast held off long enough for a full game -- plus some -- to go into the books, as the Bombers grabbed a commanding 2-0 ALCS lead and remained undefeated in this year's postseason.
"We've been saying all year how this team doesn't quit, and they showed you right there," Yankees starter A.J. Burnett said. "For some reason, we feel like when we come up last in this park, we can always win."
The moment was big for Hairston, who had led off the 13th with a pinch-hit single and was mobbed as he hit home plate. He went from the cellar to the penthouse in July, immediately thinking about the chance to go to the postseason for the first time in his 12-year career upon being traded by the Reds.
Still sporting clumps of whipped cream on his face, courtesy of Burnett -- who delivered the towel pie after hurling 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball -- the third-generation big leaguer called it "the best feeling in the world" and said that his thoughts were with his grandfather, Sammy, a member of the 1951 White Sox.
"I knew if I got a chance to do something, I wanted to do something positive," Hairston said. "This game isn't easy. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. My grandfather never had the opportunity that I've had. That was definitely for him."
The Yankees had toasty feelings for Hairston and his feel-good moment, but they knew it would not have been possible had A-Rod not continued to play Superman in his new playoff persona, drilling the rainy liner off Fuentes that just cleared the right-field wall.
"I know I had a blast out there today," Rodriguez said. "That was a great game. That's what I've been doing all year -- trying to keep things simple and not trying to think too much."
Well, think about this: Rodriguez has now slugged three late-inning game-tying home runs to rescue the Bombers, who continue to be amazed while expecting the next installments with baited breath.
"I just kept yelling, 'He did it again! He did it again!'" Mark Teixeira said. "I couldn't believe it."
|5:49||BOS 5||NYY 4||2004|
|5:46||NYM 3||ATL 2||1999|
|5:27||TB 9||BOS 8||2008|
|5:14||CLE 13||BOS 6||2007|
|5:10||NYY 4||LAA 3||2009|
|5:02||BOS 6||NYY 4||2004|
The Yankees needed the late run support because with Burnett mostly sharp over 6 1/3 innings, Angels starter Joe Saunders was also strong, limiting New York to a Cano RBI triple and a Jeter solo homer through seven innings.
The homer was historic for Jeter. Challenging a stiff, driving wind in right field, the drive was the captain's 19th in the postseason, moving him past Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle on the all-time list. Jeter trails only Manny Ramirez (29) and former teammate Bernie Williams (22).
Leaning heavily on their bullpen, the Yankees eventually needed to use all but one of their hurlers, as a combined 13 pitchers saw time on the mound and took turns dodging damage.
"It was a long game," Jeter said. "It seemed like a lot of missed opportunities on both sides. When you get to the playoffs, it's tough to come up with runs. Pitching really sticks out. Fortunately for us, our pitching was a little better."
The Yankees nearly had the game won in the ninth when facing rookie Kevin Jepsen, as Brett Gardner moved pinch-runner Freddy Guzman to third base with a looping single, but Cano managed only a soft tapper that sent the game into extra innings.
|18||HOU 7||ATL 6||NLDS||2005|
|16||NYM 7||HOU 6||NLCS||1986|
|15||NYM 4||ATL 3||NLDS||1999|
|15||NYY 7||SEA 5||ALDS||1995|
|14||CWS 7||HOU 5||WS||2005|
|14||BOS 5||NYY 4||ALCS||2004|
|14||BOS 2||BRO 1||WS||1916|
|13||NYY 4||LAA 3||ALCS||2009|
|13||NYY 3||SF 2||NLDS||2000|
|13||CLE 5||BOS 4||ALDS||1995|
There were also questionable moments -- after Jeter was ruled out on a fifth-inning double play in which he appeared to be safe, second-base umpire Jerry Layne ruled Cabrera safe on a double play in the 10th, saying that the shortstop Erick Aybar had been off the bag.
The call became a footnote when Darren Oliver got the next two outs to move the game forward, giving the Angels another shot in the 11th when Chone Figgins came through with an RBI single off Alfredo Aceves that gave the Angels the advantage -- one that A-Rod would erase.
"We did a lot of good things out there on that ballfield tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Unfortunately, one of them wasn't hitting with runners in scoring position. And that's eventually what hurt us."
With Dave Robertson escaping damage in the top half of the 12th, Rodriguez actually had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the frame as the Yankees loaded the bases, but Rodriguez flied out to center field, ending the threat.
The moment proved that A-Rod can't always play the hero, but perhaps the Yankees can win them all.
"A win is a win, regardless," said Mariano Rivera, who recorded seven outs. "When you win like this, it shows a lot of character, a lot of heart, a lot of determination. That's what we have."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.