Tonight's game wasn't won [OK, technically it was] on Marcus Thames' single in the ninth inning. The critical innings were the sixth and seventh when the Yankees scored one and two runs, respectively, against Cliff Lee, who had a 6-1 lead.
"Our guys just stayed at him," Joe Girardi said. "We all know how good he is and you look up and you know he doesn't beat himself but our guys just kind of tried to peck away and tried to put good at-bats against him and he started making a few mistakes and all of a sudden we were back in the game."
With the Yankees (70-43), who increased their lead to 11/2 games over the Rays, trailing 6-5 in the ninth, Lance Berkman led off with a walk against Rangers' closer Neftali Feliz and Curtis Granderson came in to pinch run. Brett Gardner singled to left and, with Derek Jeter at the plate, Feliz's wild pitch moved the runners up. Jeter's single up the middle brought in Granderson to tie it. Ron Washington called for righty Alexi Ogando to face Thames, whose homer in the eighth pulled the Yankees, who struck out 17 times in the game – which matched a franchise high – to 6-5.
Thames, who went 2-for-5 Tuesday, fell behind 0-and-2 hole but grounded Ogando's third pitch into left to bring in Gardner to make it 7-6.
“It means they have some faith in me,” Thames said of hitting third a second straight night. “But after I see it I have to go out and be me. I’m not going to put any pressure on myself and try to act like I’m Tex. I’m just going to be Marcus.”
And then there was Mariano Rivera, who took the loss here Tuesday night, allowing a leadoff triple to Elvis Andrus before retiring the next three batters in the ninth for his 24th save.
Austin Kearns made a shoestring catch in short right on Michael Young’s fly ball and Josh Hamilton, 3-for-4 on the night to that point, grounded back to Rivera who held the runner at third before throwing to first. Vladimir Guerrero grounded to third to end the inning, which had a similar feel to the 10th inning of the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over the Diamondbacks June 23 when Rivera earned the victory after loading the bases with none out in the 10th but escaped the jam.
“I’m thinking we’re in a tough spot here but if anyone can do it Mo can," Girardi said.
"The guy's on third base," Rivera shrugged. "You make your pitches and try to get out of it...I made my pitches."
Just another save.
With that, back tomorrow night in Kansas City as it will be CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.14) taking on Bruce Chen (7-5, 4.44).