Charles Dickens would have enjoyed the ninth inning of last night’s Yankee game. Entering the frame, it was the worst of times as the Bronx Bombers were staring down the barrel of a costly 3-1 loss. However, Raul Ibanez’ pinch hit, game tying home run (only the seventh of its kind in the majors this year) returned the Yankees from the brink. Then, just when it looked like the best of times, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano squandered an opportunity to win the game when neither could drive home the winning run with the bases loaded. Forget Dickens. The Agony and the Ecstasy was more like it.
Ibanez has been no stranger to heroics this season. Despite going long stretches with very little production, including a 24-game span when he hit .057 in 60 plate appearances, the lefty slugger has done his most damage in the clutch. According to WPA, Ibanez’ ninth inning homer was tied for the second most impactful plate appearance by a Yankee this season, trailing another late inning, game tying homer that he hit just last week against the Athletics. In fact, of the 15 most impactful Yankees’ plate appearances this season, Ibanez has been the author of six.
The Yankees needed Ibanez to come to the rescue because the lineup forfeited several scoring chances earlier in the game, including two key double plays off the bat of Mark Teixeria. That was an unfortunate occurrence for Joe Girardi in light of his questionable decision to bat Teixeira in front of the red hot Cano. However, although some criticism was justified, no one could have imagined the impact. After all, the potential effect of flip flopping two hitters one position in the batting order is normally miniscule. Unfortunately for the Yankees’ skipper, Teixeira happened to have one of the worst games of his career. For only the fifth time, the switch hitter went hitless in six at bats, but what really made for a frustrating evening were the nine base runners he stranded, including three at third base with less than two outs. Not only was Teixeira’s resultant cumulative WPA of -0.618 easily the worst recorded by a Bronx Bomber this season, but it was also the second lowest figure posted in all of baseball as well as the worst mark of the first baseman’s career.
There were a couple of cruel ironies to Teixeira’s nightmarish evening, not the least of which was the first baseman entered the game with a league leading 11 sacrifice flies, but couldn’t muster one in three opportunities. Also, before last night, Teixeira had been the most clutch Yankee in terms of cumulative WPA, having posted a season rate of 2.4 as well as four of the top-10 game scores. In other words, Girardi shouldn’t be faulted too much for having faith in Teixeira. In fact, if not for Teixeira’s recent injury and the current hot streak of Cano (who entered the game hitting .621/.625/.966 in his last seven games), there would be nothing about which to complain.
Fortunately for Teixeira and Girardi, Ibanez was not only able to save the day in the ninth, but he also came through with the game winning hit in the 12th inning as well. The result was the second most clutch game by a Bronx Bomber this season, which more than canceled out Teixeira’s futility. In a pennant race that has been as close as any other in franchise history, the importance of every at bat has been magnified, and last night, the Yankees experienced the full gamut of emotions. From the worst of times to the best; from agony to ecstasy; it might not be how the Yankees drew it up, but with one more victory, they’ll have their happy ending.