ARLINGTON, Texas — Tyler Austin said he was “a little nervous” heading to the plate in the ninth inning Saturday.
It didn’t show.
The rookie, who entered the game at first base in the bottom of the eighth after Matt Holliday pinch hit for Greg Bird, came up in a huge situation in the ninth against the Rangers and came through.
With the bases loaded, one out and the score tied at 1, Austin lined an RBI single to left on a 1-and-0 slider from righthander Ricardo Rodriguez to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Chase Headley, whose sacrifice fly in the eighth tied it at 1, worked a two-out walk with the bases loaded to make it 3-1.
“I was just trying to calm myself down,” Austin said. “But once I saw the first pitch, I kind of calmed myself down and tried to get something and not do too much with it.”
Austin, who turned 26 on Wednesday, was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. Before Saturday, he had only one at-bat since then, flying out as a pinch hitter on Thursday in Baltimore.
“It’s not easy,” Joe Girardi said of Austin coming in cold and taking a key at-bat. “But in his young amount of time here, he’s had some big hits for us. He’s had a walk-off homer, he had a homer in the Boston series [off Chris Sale]. Just a really good approach on his part. To be able to stay ready, it’s a lot of credit to him.”
Austin’s season got off to a horrible start, through no fault of his own. He came to camp in February with a chance to win a reserve job, but that got derailed before camp even started when he fouled a ball off his left foot during batting practice in mid-February, causing a fracture that forced him to miss 54 games at the start of the season. Shortly after returning, he strained his right hamstring and missed another 37 games.
“It’s definitely not the way you draw it up, to be honest,” Austin said. “I think I have 220 at-bats [majors and minors] in the entire season. Guys get that in the first months. Definitely not how you draw it up, but what can you do?”
The Yankees lead the wild-card race, but Girardi repeated what he has said multiple times in recent weeks.
“Our goal is to win the division,” he said before the game. “We’re not in control of the division race because we need help. But we’re in control of everything else. So to me, the focus should be on winning. Win that day and you let things take care of themselves.”
Of the Yankees’ 21 remaining games, 14 are at home — 17 if you count next week’s “road” series against the Rays. Those games were switched to Citi Field because of Hurricane Irma.
Let’s walk a while
Aaron Judge (0-for-3) worked a second-inning walk, giving him an AL-leading 106 this season. It also tied him with Les Fleming of the 1942 Indians for most in a season by a rookie.
It was the third time this season the Yankees had nine hits that happened to all be singles . . . The Yankees will try to earn a third straight series victory Sunday, with Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.14) taking on A.J. Griffin (6-5, 5.09).