DENVER - There was sound strategy, Joe Girardi insisted, to his unorthodox move Wednesday night of batting his pitcher eighth.
But pressed on the matter, the Yankees manager eventually stated the obvious.
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It made for plenty of interesting pregame discussion and, as these things usually go in baseball, the decision played a front-and-center role in the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field.
Brennan Boesch, pinch hitting in the eighth spot -- for David Robertson, who pitched a scoreless eighth -- in the ninth inning, delivered a two-out infield single to third with the bases loaded to snap a tie at 2.
But that wasn't the oddest part of a strange night.
His immediate thought?
"The panic set in immediately," Wells said.
That was because Girardi earlier in the ninth had used Travis Hafner to pinch hit for third baseman Chris Nelson.
With Eduardo Nunez still out because of tightness in his rib cage, Girardi was between his catchers, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, and Wells, who started in left, to play third. And Girardi recalled on a recent off day watching Wells take grounders -- the outfielder said he's always done it to keep his hands sharp -- and being impressed.
"I said, 'he looks OK over there,' " Girardi said. "I said, if I ever get in a bind, it might be something that I do knowing what our roster was."
With the bases loaded and two outs, Hafner struck out but Boesch, hustling down the line, beat out a bang-bang play at first to push Wells across.
"I've probably surprised some third basemen in my career with hitting some balls over there as a lefthanded hitter," Boesch said. "I'm kind of a taller, bigger guy. Sometimes you can sneak up on some infielders."
Mariano Rivera, with his new third baseman, pitched a scoreless ninth to go 12-for-12 in saves this season.
And, naturally, a ball was hit Wells' way at third. But on a bouncer hit by Carlos Gonzalez, Wells, playing third for the first time in his life -- he last played infield in high school at shortstop and second -- looked flawless in recording the second out of the inning.
"It's fun," Wells said, asked if he hoped a ball would be hit his way. "If you're going to be over there and you have Mariano on the mound, it would be fun to get a ball. And I got a fairly easy one."
Michael Cuddyer singled and stole second, Rivera got Rosario to fly to center.
David Phelps pitched well, allowing two runs and three hits in six innings. The runs came on a two-run homer by Todd Helton that tied it at 2.
"That's probably the best I've felt in a while," Phelps said. "My changeup was really good today."
Wells gave the Yankees the lead in the first with a two-run shot, his seventh home run of the season. But for the 34-year-old outfielder, there was no comparison on what the highlight of his night was.
"I'm definitely going with playing third base with Mariano Rivera on the mound," Wells said. "That's most likely something that will never happen for me again."
Given the Yankees' injuries, Wells gave a knowing smile before adding: "But you never know."