(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
It is early July and the New York Yankees know games against AL East division teams will be significant. The one played against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night in the Bronx, won by the Yankees 7-5 on a walk-off home run in the 12th inning from Brian McCann, can be considered important.
And in the words of Brett Gardner, to the Yankees it was “the biggest win of the year by far.” It was a comeback win in July that is seen with a tight pennant race in September, and the way this division race is materializing a win like this one could mean a lot when the last few games are played.
The Yankees scored all their runs on the home run ball, Mark Teixeira hit a game tying three-run shot to right in the eighth inning. They had to wait a few extra innings for McCann to display the fireworks with another long shot to right that put his team, at least for the moment in first place.
“ It was one of the best feelings you can possibly have,” McCann said about his seventh career walk-off hit and third as a Yankee. And it was a dramatic home run, because the Yankees have not had a walk-off win since the final home game of last season when Derek Jeter got the winning hit in his Bronx finale.
McCann added, “A big spot like that against a team in our division, It’s a great feeling.”
The division, as it stands now, could go down to the wire. That is why the Yankees fought and had that never quit attitude, and it also helps that their home ballpark is built for their home run hitting team. The Yankees hit a lot of home runs, second in the American League, and have homered in 29 of 36 home games.
“Good way to start the homestand against a division team,” manager Joe Girardi said. After his team completed a 3-4 road trip at Houston and Los Angeles, Girardi said the division games would be important because the race for first place would not be decided until those last days in September.
And what helps more, as the first half of the schedule concludes, is that his team has a majority of games remaining in the Bronx, 36 of their first 80 have been at Yankee Stadium.
The home run and walk-off win put the Yankees a game ahead of the Orioles. and two games in front of the Rays and Toronto Blue Jays in the division.
And home cooking was good for the Yankees Friday night. They could not reach Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer again, The right hander, third in the AL among earned run average leaders, came into the game 5-0 in seven career starts against New York, but he failed to become the seventh pitcher since 1914 to begin a career against the Yankees at 6-0 or better,
Archer did not figure in the decision after allowing no runs, three hits in 6.21 innings and tossing a career high 122 pitches. However it was his 11th quality start and if it were not for the home run ball by Teixeira, his 20th off a 1-0 fastball from Kevin Jepsen, Archer would have added to his win mark.
“it was a battle,” Archer said. “They have a good lineup and know how to work counts.” Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, with the exception of giving up two runs in the first inning, threw the ball well and avoided a third straight loss.
But it was those fireworks in the 12th inning the Yankees provided with the slim crowd remaining of the 43, 141 before the July 4th holiday. A division win they know was important.