Monday night’s dramatic ending for the New York Yankees against the Tampa Bay Rays sums up their season perfectly. Just when the Yankees looked to be nearing the brink of disaster, an unsung hero came to bail them out. This time, it was Mr. Slade Heathcott.
Not only do the Yankees need every win they can get, not only were they getting no-hit into the eighth inning in last night’s affair against the formidable Rays, the Yankees pulled out the win of all wins. Down 1-0 in the ninth, Alex Rodriguez‘s timely double knocked in Brett Gardner, and the Heathcott three-run home run catapulted New York to an improbable win.
However, none of this would have been possible if not for the two out walk by Gardner.
It might not be surprising to mention that the Yankees are No. 1 in MLB with 270 two-out RBIs. Heathcott became the first Yankee rookie since 1967 to hit a go-ahead home run with two outs in the ninth inning. You add all this up and it points to a rejuvenated Yankees team that easily described this win as the biggest of the season.
Saturday I mentioned how it was beginning to look like the AL East was the Toronto Blue Jays‘ division to lose. The doubleheader sweep over the weekend left a bad taste in Yankees fans mouths, and Toronto easily flexed their muscle, taking the critical series three out of four, clubbing 10 home runs in the three victories.
New York had an inspiring 5-0 win Sunday afternoon. CC Sabathia pitched his best game in a long time Monday night — 6 2/3 of three-hit scoreless ball. As the adage goes, one can judge the dog in a fight, but you can never underestimate the fight in a dog. The Yankees aren’t going down without a fight.
They went from being nearly no-hit to an improbable three-run home run to win the game.
Maybe this is the win they needed — the emotional lift that can add life to a team clinging to hopes of still winning the AL East.
Toronto is without shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for the foreseeable future. As great as the Blue Jays offense is (and it is great) — No. 1 in HRs, RBIs, OBP, SLG, OPS — Tulowitzki certainly has sparked the team since his arrival in late July. The Blue Jays at one point went on an absurd 26-6 run, scoring 200 runs in that span. The Jays have never had any type of 26-6 run in their history. Few teams have.
With Tulo forced to miss the next 2-3 weeks, and possibly the rest of the season with a cracked shoulder blade, the Jays must be able to keep up their incredible pace they’ve set. If they fall off just a little, the Yankees, just three out entering Tuesday, could surpass them.
Of course, Heathcott’s one Yankee moment is a small sample size compared to what Tulo has done over two months in Toronto, but all the same, every team looks for a rallying moment to carry them forward.
The Yankees, of course, must take care of business this week against the Rays, before taking on the seriously-hot New York Mets — eight straight wins entering Tuesday — before their final regular season showdown against Toronto at Rogers Centre starting the 21st.
Take care of business and the rest will sort itself out. I’m a strong believer that momentum carries teams. Some will argue that momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher, but look at the facts. Tulowitzki to Toronto is more than just a little luck. He helps make the lethal Jays lineup even better. There is a certain feel these days in Toronto, and confidence comes from winning.
What was a mere out from continuing the inconsistency that is the Yankees of late, instead becomes the biggest win to date. Don’t underestimate what September magic can do for a team looking for a little rally and ultimate October glory.