His replacement in the three-hole for two days here, though, didn't do too badly.
Marcus Thames went 3-for-5 last night, which included the go-ahead single in the ninth, capping a rally from a five-run deficit against Cliff Lee and leading the Yankees to a 7-6 victory over the Rangers in front of 48,676 at the Ballpark in Arlington.
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 closer Neftali Feliz and Curtis Granderson came in to pinch run. Brett Gardner singled to left and, with Derek Jeter at the plate, Feliz uncorked a wild pitch, moving the runners up. With the infield in, Jeter bounced one over Feliz's glove and under Cristian Guzman's at second to bring in Granderson to tie it at 6. Nick Swisher struck out and Rangers manager Ron Washington called for Alexi Ogando to face Thames, whose homer in the eighth pulled the Yankees to 6-5.
Thames fell in an 0-and-2 hole but grounded Feliz's third pitch into left to bring in Gardner to make it 7-6.
Mariano Rivera, who took the loss here Tuesday night, allowed a leadoff triple to Elvis Andrus before retiring the next three batters in the ninth to earn his 24th save.
It all capped a stunning rally, which improbably started against Lee, a pitcher the Yankees are likely to land in the offseason but might face in October. They showed last night that task may not be insurmountable.
Lee allowed four runs and eight hits in 61/3 innings, letting the Yankees back in front after he was handed a 6-1 lead after five.
Lee, who almost clinically set down the Yankees in the first five innings, allowing one run and three hits while striking out seven of his first 11 batters, saw the 6-1 lead he'd been handed trimmed to 6-2 in the sixth when Jeter tripled and scored on a wild pitch.
Robinson Cano started the seventh with a double and, after Jorge Posada struck out, Austin Kearns singled to left. Berkman followed with an RBI double and Gardner, in a 2-for-26 slump, drove a 2-and-2 pitch up the middle for a single to bring in Kearns to make it 6-4. Washington brought in Darren O'Day to face Jeter with runners on first and third. Gardner stole second, giving Jeter a chance to tie the score with a single, but O'Day struck him out on a 2-and-2 pitch.
Washington then called in veteran lefty Darren Oliver to turn Swisher around and the rightfielder struck out swinging to end the inning.
Vazquez retired six straight after allowing Nelson Cruz's single to start the second, with Josh Hamilton breaking the streak with a leadoff double in the fourth. Vazquez retired the next two batters, Vladimir Guerrero and Cruz, and Girardi chose to intentionally walk David Murphy, who drove in three of the Rangers' four runs the night before.
Bengie Molina then walked to load the bases and Mitch Moreland followed with a ground smash that Berkman, diving to his right, saw bounce off the tip of his glove and into short right. Two runs scored to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.