Mark Teixeira's Sunday started with the disappointment of a missed opportunity and ended with the euphoria of a victory. Both feelings were a direct result of his bat.
Facing Seattle Mariners starter "King" Felix Hernandez in the first inning of Sunday's 2-1 Yankees victory at Yankee Stadium, Teixeira grounded into an inning-ending double play with two men on.
The doomed ground ball squandered a chance for the Yankees to "get to the ace early." Hernandez, a former Cy Young Award winner, threw up four more zeros as he cruised through the fifth unscathed.
"He throws four pitches for strikes," Teixeira, who was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run, said of Hernandez. "He's got really good deception, throws the pitches on the corner, and doesn't miss over the middle of the plate very much. You put all that together and you have a pretty good pitcher."
Hernandez left after a sixth inning in which he gave up the game-tying single to Carlos Beltran, finishing the afternoon allowing one run and five hits and striking out five. The performance lowered his ERA to 2.77.
With the King long retired to his clubhouse thrown, Teixeira stepped to the plate with two outs and no one on in the eighth and smashed a fastball 354 feet over the rightfield fence off Fernando Rodney, giving the Yankees (50-41) the only lead they would need. It was his 23rd homer of the season and 12th that has either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead.
"I just put a good swing on it," said Teixeira, who entered the game 0-for-9 with two strikeouts in his career against Rodney. "He threw the pitch before right by me. I knew I had to get ready a little bit earlier. The second one I was ready for."
And so were the Yankees, who finally capitalized on a chance to score with the heart of their lineup at the plate.
"Anytime you get in that part of the order, you feel really good that anyone can pop one," manager Joe Girardi said.
Teixeira continued: "He threw me a changeup early in the at-bat and I knew that, if I got ready early enough, I could react to the changeup, as well. I was ready for the fastball, but if he throws a changeup there, I might be able to foul it off or, depending upon where he put it, put a good swing on it."
While he was thinking changeup or fastball, he wasn't necessarily thinking home run.
"I'm thinking drive the ball," said Teixeira, who is tied for the AL lead in RBIs with 63. "I wish it was that easy that you could just say 'I want to hit a home run.' I'm definitely trying to drive the ball there."