Zoilo Almonte again makes big contribution
Sometimes Yankees success literally comes from out of leftfield, from unexpected or odd sources.
Even before veteran Vernon Wells' pinch-hit three-run double belied his dreadful recent slump in Saturday's 7-5 win over the Rays, the young lad who lately has replaced Wells in that space behind shortstop continued his unforeseen big-league proficiency.
Zoilo Almonte, the 24-year-old Dominican playing his fourth major-league game, went 1-for-2 with two walks and drove in the Yankees' first three runs. He figured in each of their rallies with a two-out, two-run single in the third inning, a bases-loaded walk in the fifth and a walk that loaded the bases in the seventh, setting up David Adams' bases-loaded walk and Wells' hit.
"Another big day,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Almonte. "You know, we had a lot of opportunities early and weren't able to really cash in. He's the one who had the two-out hit, then had the walk, which really helped us out.''
Almonte's given name is of Spanish and Greek origin. It means "life,'' and for a second consecutive game, he infused breath into a fairly dormant Yankees offense.
He has been playing baseball since he was 7. "To be honest, it was just a matter of playing with the neighborhood kids,'' he said through a translator. "Never did I imagine I'd be in the major leagues.''
Almonte has spent eight years in the Yankees' minor-league system. He hit 21 home runs for Double-A Trenton last year and was batting .297 in 68 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.
Almonte was summoned to the big club this past week and, in his first start Friday, went 3-for-4 with a homer. He left the Stadium Saturday with a .625 batting average.
"It's not easy at all,'' he said. "But I've been trying my best to just give my all. I never expected this opportunity and I'd like to take advantage of it. So far, I'm seeing the ball really well.''
With his family and friends back home in the Dominican Republic following Almonte's breakthrough on television, the Yankees kept doing him the kindness of putting runners on base ahead of him, and he kept holding up his end of the bargain.
Perhaps there is some mysterious form of numerology going on, an occult influence of numbers on human affairs. Before Almonte donned it, Yankees uniform No. 45 was worn by everyone from Girardi -- before he traded numbers with recently acquired Cecil Fielder (No. 25) on the 1996 World Series champs -- to Danny Tartabull to famous flop Carl Pavano and the likes of Sergio Mitre and Hector Noesi.
Might the number be making the rounds back to special doings for its wearer? After Almonte's sharp two-run single in the third and RBI walk in the fifth, Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta appeared unwilling to challenge him, walking him on four pitches -- three of which bounced in front of the plate.
Setting up a Yankees comeback that was far out.