Desperate for offense after having lost seven of eight, Yankees manager Joe Girardi got "a little creative'' Monday night and started first baseman Lyle Overbay in rightfield for the first time in Overbay's 13-year career.
But it was the current first baseman, Mark Teixeira, who had more of an impact in the Yankees' 7-4 victory over the Indians, a game that featured the returns of Andy Pettitte from the disabled list and Nick Swisher to Yankee Stadium.
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Teixeira, who had struck out in seven of nine at-bats after returning from a serious wrist injury, hit a third-inning grand slam for his first home run and second hit of the season. The ball disappeared just over the rightfield fence and was caught by a young fan with his hat. Indians manager Terry Francona did not request a replay review.
But Pettitte could not make the 4-1 lead provided by Teixeira hold up in his first start since May 16. The Indians tied it with three in the fifth and knocked out Pettitte after only 42/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, walked three, struck out three and threw two wild pitches.
Shawn Kelley (3-0), Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were stingy, though, allowing one hit in 41/3 scoreless innings, and Brett Gardner had a two-run single with two outs in the sixth to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead. Travis Hafner celebrated his 36th birthday with a home run in the seventh and Rivera got Swisher (0-for-4, walk, RBI) to fly to left to end it, picking up his 20th save in 21 chances.
"We needed this win," Teixeira said. "We've had a rough enough streak the last week and a half, two weeks, so we needed this one. That grand slam was good for me and good for the team."
Girardi is doing what he can with Curtis Granderson on the disabled list and Vernon Wells slumping; hence the experiment with Overbay in right. But nothing would make him happier than Teixeira returning to form in the third spot in the order.
With the bases loaded and one out in the third, Teixeira (1-for-3, walk) hit the first pitch from Justin Masterson (8-4) for his eighth career grand slam, pumping his fist as he rounded first base. "Tex is an RBI machine, and we need that,'' Girardi said.
Teixeira revealed after the game that he volunteered to play the outfield. Uh, no thanks, the Yankees quickly said. They're not even sure if his wrist can hold up, which is one of the reasons Overbay still is on the team.
Overbay went 1-for-3 with a walk and handled the only ball hit his way, Yan Gomes' shallow fly. It was in a big spot -- with the bases loaded and two outs after the Indians tied it in the fifth. "He's 1-for-1 in catches,'' Girardi said. Asked if he will try it again, Girardi said, "Sure.''
Overbay said he was "98 percent excited, 2 percent scared.'' With his outfield glove in transit from his Arizona home, he borrowed one from Boone Logan, who uses it to shag fly balls.
Girardi had said he'd be "thrilled to death'' if Pettitte could give him 90 pitches and six innings. Pettitte, who turns 41 on June 15, didn't make it.
The Indians went ahead 1-0 on a sacrifice fly to Robinson Cano in short center -- Gardner said he and the other outfielders didn't see it -- and tied it when Carlos Santana hit a two-out, two-run double off third baseman David Adams' glove.
"Felt good about the team winning and putting some runs up on the board," said Pettitte, who said he felt fine after returning from his trapezius strain. "And as far as me personally, it's frustrating. We finally get some runs on the board and then you give the lead back to them. I'm never going to be real happy about that. But just real thankful you can smile a little bit about it. We get the 'W' and that was just huge."