Melky Mesa nearly etched himself in Yankee lore in the 14th inning of Saturday's 10-9 win over the A's.

Mesa, a 25-year-old outfielder making his major-league debut as a pinch runner, missed third base while trying to score on what could have been a game-ending single by Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod and the Yankees bench thought they had a second straight walk-off win.

At least Mesa had the presence of mind to return to third base. After he was forced out at home for the second out on a Robinson Cano comebacker, the Yankees won when Eduardo Nuñez's grounder was booted by first baseman Brandon Moss for an error.

Mesa received hugs and words of encouragement from his teammates. Manager Joe Girardi presented him with the lineup card as a keepsake from his first game.

Chances are he wouldn't have forgotten it either way.

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"I just missed third base," Mesa said. "Mistake. A bad-time mistake."

Mesa was called up Sept. 11 from Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre.

If the Yankees had lost the game, Mesa's name would have been forever linked with a major gaffe. And imagine if that game had cost the Yankees a playoff spot . . .

But it didn't.

"Whew," Mesa said. "I just wanted to win so bad at that time. I just feel happy we won. That's all I can say."

Said Girardi: "I'll give him credit. He didn't compound the problem by continuing to go. He went back to third base. I'm sure everyone would have seen it and he would have been called out.

"That would have been a tough one for that kid to swallow. It just happened in his debut. He won't forget it."