Leave it to DJ to cue the music.
After nearly four hours of baseball, DJ LeMahieu came up to bat in the 11th inning Saturday afternoon wearing a rare 0-for-4 against a team the Yankees hadn't beaten all season. And it took all of 5.4 seconds for him to change both those things.
LeMahieu hit the Yankees' fourth solo home run of the game, a drive over the rightfield fence on Lou Trivino's first pitch of the 11th, as the Yankees beat the Athletics, 4-3, at Yankee Stadium. It was only their sixth hit of the game and gave them their first win over the A’s in five tries this year.
LeMahieu entered the at-bat 2-for-21 against Oakland this season but wound up with his 24th home run and 90th RBI, both career highs.
“DJ was 0-for-4 going into that at-bat, so I knew he was going to get a hit there,” said Aaron Judge, who had a great view from the on-deck circle and helped lead the Gatorade-soaked celebration at home plate, replete with Frank Sinatra backing music. “He just always produces … Right off the bat, you knew. I threw up the practice bat I had over there. I threw up the helmet and got ready for the celebration.”
Added Aaron Boone: “We don’t see DJ have too many days where he struggles at the plate…He’s been coming up huge for us all year, and just when you think he’s down a day, he comes up huge.”
Gary Sanchez hit two home runs off A's starter Homer Bailey, a 436-foot shot into the second deck in leftfield in the second inning and a 396-foot blast to right-center in the fifth, giving him 32 this season.
With two outs in the eighth and the Yankees trailing 3-2, Judge mashed his 19th homer of the season and seventh in 11 games, a 371-foot drive into the second deck in rightfield off Joakim Soria. Judge then stole either a double or a go-ahead homer from Matt Chapman in the 10th, hauling back a long fly ball near the top of the rightfield wall.
Those heroics were possible only because the Yankees escaped jam after jam in the first nine innings. They allowed 10 walks in that span, but Oakland stranded 13 runners in the fifth through ninth innings, leaving the bases loaded in the sixth, seventh and eighth.
Thanks to a short start by an injured CC Sabathia on Friday and a five-inning stint by Domingo German on Saturday, the bullpen had plenty of work to do, and despite some tense moments, it managed to produce. Seven relievers combined to allow one run and four hits in six innings, including two innings from winning pitcher Cory Gearrin, who also pitched Friday.
“A lot of gutsy efforts today out of guys out of the pen,” Boone said. “Just a lot of big pitches in big spots that allowed us to win that game.”
Matt Olson's two-run homer into the rightfield bleachers gave the A's a 2-1 lead in the fourth, but Sanchez then tied the score and moved within one of his career high of 33 homers, a franchise record for a catcher.
The A’s took a 3-2 lead with one out in the seventh on Chapman's RBI double to leftfield against Adam Ottavino. YES cameras appeared to show that the ball landed just foul, but Boone declined to challenge the play -- something he later said he regretted.
The Yankees moved a game ahead of the Astros and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers in the race for MLB’s best record.
With 25 games remaining, the Yankees have hit 254 home runs this season, 13 short of the MLB record they set last year. (After hitting six on Saturday to break the 2018 Yankees’ record, the Twins have 268 with 27 games remaining.)
LeMahieu's homer gave the Yankees an MLB-record 74 in 30 games in August, shattering the previous record of 58 homers in a month. They have hit 22 home runs in their last eight games.
It was the third walk-off hit of LeMahieu’s career and his second this season. He already had struck out three times in the game and was determined to improve upon that.
“I didn’t really help the team too much at the plate today, so it was good to come through there at the end,” he said. “Yeah, it felt good.”