Rays error leads to Yankees' 2nd walk-off victory in row
Mark Teixeira turned on a 94 mph fastball from Brad Boxberger and hit a sharp grounder between the diving bodies of James Loney, positioned just off first base, and second baseman Jake Elmore, about 15 feet from the foul line, in short right field.
After the ball rolled to the wall in the right-field corner, Teixeira slid into second base with a leadoff double in the ninth inning. A few minutes later, the Yankees had their second consecutive walk-off win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
"That's as hard as I can hit it," Teixeira said after the 3-2 victory Saturday, which ended when Boxberger threw away a bunt by rookie Ramos Flores, allowing pinch-runner Jose Pirela to slide home with the winning run.
The 35-year-old Teixeira hit a tying, three-run homer in Friday's 7-5 win and a first-inning sacrifice fly off Nathan Karns on Saturday. After two miserable seasons, he leads the AL with 59 RBI and could be headed to his first All-Star appearance since 2009.
Teixeira was limited to 15 games in 2013, when he injured his right wrist in March while with the United States team preparing for the World Baseball Classic. He floundered when he tried to play and finally had surgery that July 1 to repair the tendon sheath.
When he returned last year, he hit .216 with 22 homers and 62 RBI; at the midpoint of this season Teixeira has a .245 average and 20 homers, his best offensive numbers since 2011.
"It seems like the Tex from three, four, five years ago," teammate Brett Gardner said.
Teixeira is part of an upper-30s revival in the Yankees' batting order. Alex Rodriguez, who singled in the Yankees' opening run, is batting .284 with 15 homers and 46 RBI after serving a one-year drug suspension.
Going into the season, New York wondered about Teixeira's production. His injury was similar to one that slowed Toronto's Jose Bautista in 2012 and `13.
"There's been guys that have had this injury that have said it's not the first year you come back, it's the second year where you really feel 100 percent," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Teixeira's double was remarkable, taking a hop and bouncing just over Loney's outstretched glove and too far to the left of Elmore.
"Really all over baseball, ground balls are outs," Teixeira said. "The defensive scouting reports are so good that you either have to crush it or get lucky."
Chris Young walked and Flores, recalled from the minors a day earlier, bunted to the third-base side of the mound. Boxberger (4-4) fielded the ball, looked to second, then bounced a throw to the fair side of first base. Elmore knocked the ball down, but his throw home was too late for catcher Curt Casali to tag the sliding Pirela, who scored all the way from second and earned a dousing from Gardner.
"It's frustrating that the outcome of the game is based on a throw that should be pretty simple," Boxberger said after Tampa Bay's losing streak stretched to seven. "I didn't set my feet, just rushed it a little bit, and that's what happens."
After Michael Pineda struck out 10 in seven innings of five-hit ball, Steven Souza Jr. tied the score with a two-run, ninth-inning drive, the first home run off Dellin Betances (5-1) since Aug. 13. Loney singled leading off the inning against Betances, who blew a save for the second time in nine chances.
The game began a little more than 13 hours after Brian McCann's three-run homer in the 12th inning rallied the Yankees to a 7-5 victory. New York has consecutive walk-off wins for the first time since Sept. 21-22, 2012, against Oakland, according to STATS.
New York reached the midpoint of its season at 44-37, including a 23-14 mark at home, despite missing center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and closer Andrew Miller for significant stretches.
"We need to play better on the road," Girardi said.
The Yankees lead the AL East by two games and have finished first 31 of 42 times they had sole possession of first after play on Independence Day, STATS said.
"It doesn't matter if we're six or seven games over .500," Gardner said. "What matters is we're in first place."
New York would open the 2016 season at home against Houston on April 4, according to a draft schedule provided to the team by MLB and disclosed to The Associated Press. After the three-game series against the Astros, the Yankees would go to Detroit and Toronto.
The Fourth of July marked the 85th anniversary of the birth of late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, the 76th of Lou Gehrig Day and the 33rd of Dave Righetti's no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox. Both teams wore special Independence Day uniforms, with stars in the numbers and logos, which were outlined in red trim.
Yankees: Miller (strained left forearm) threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session and could be ready for a rehab outing. ... OF Ellsbury (sprained right knee) went 0 for 3 for Class-A Tampa, resuming his rehab assignment after two days off.
RHP Ivan Nova (1-1) starts for New York in Sunday's series finale against RHP Erasmo Ramirez (6-3). Nova has lost four straight decisions against the Rays after winning six of his first seven.