Teixeira stays diplomatic in first rivalry game
And not when Jason Bay’s shocking, game-tying two-run home run off Mariano Rivera with two outs in the bottom of the ninth Friday night deprived Teixeira of what looked to be a winning hit in his introduction to the New York Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
“Fans got their money’s worth tonight, didn’t they?” said Teixeira, whose tie-breaking flare in the seventh inning had given the Yankees the lead and might have earned him the same level of contempt from Boston fans as Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon or the absent Alex Rodriguez.
But instead of being a celebrant, Teixeira’s night ended the same way his last visit here did – last October in the playoffs with the Los Angeles Angels – as a walkoff loser. Kevin Youkilis’ one-out home run in the 11th inning off reliever Damaso Marte gave the Red Sox their eighth straight win, 5-4.
Before Friday night, the Yankees and Red Sox had played each other in 2,008 regular-season games. In game No. 2,009 in the year 2009, Teixeira’s first with the Yankees, the Red Sox did something they’d never done before against the Bombers – they tied a game in the ninth with a home run, then won in extra innings with a walkoff home run.
“The fans here are always into the game, always cheering, always loud,” Teixeira said. “I remember David Ortiz hit a walkoff against us when I was with Texas, in 2006. The noise of the crowd was like deafening. It almost made your head explode. And that’s when I was with Texas, and we were probably in last place at the time.”
The odds that Teixeira wouldn’t be a hero Friday night? Until Bay connected, Rivera had not been scored on in his seven previous appearances this season. He’d converted 43 of 44 save opportunities since the start of the 2008 season, he had two wins and nine saves in his last 13 appearances against the Red Sox dating back to April 27, 2007, and he had not given up a home run to a Red Sox hitter since David Ortiz took him deep in a 14-11 Yankees win Aug. 18, 2006.
“My fault,” said Rivera, who was summoned to pitch with two outs in the eighth inning because setup man Brian Bruney was unavailable with what manager Joe Girardi called a cranky elbow. “That’s the way it is.”
Teixeira had one more chance Friday night to produce the winner, when he came to the plate against Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon in the 10th inning with two outs and runners on second and third. And while he denied that the occasion had an effect, Teixeira admitted that he struck out on a full-count, 96 mph fastball that should have been ball four, up and out of the zone.
“I’ve got to take my walk there,” Teixeira said. “A base was open, and I didn’t do a good job of taking my walk and let Jorgie [Posada] have a chance with the bases loaded there.
“I was too aggressive.”
Someone asked if Teixeira was surprised that Boston tempted fate by pitching to him in that situation. He said he wasn’t sure that Papelbon did.
“That’s debatable,” he said. “I chased pitches I shouldn’t have swung at. That’s just me trying to do too much.
“We scratched and clawed the whole game and looked like we were going to escape with it, but Jason Bay hit one off one of the greatest closers in the game.”
Before the game, Teixeira had played the bemused innocent to perfection, professing no understanding of why any of his rejected suitors – especially the Red Sox – might harbor resentment over the process that took place before he signed an eight-year, $180 million deal with the Yankees.
“I hope they don’t feel any ill will toward me,” Teixeira said at a pregame press conference. “I thought the whole process went very smoothly with everybody. We were very honest with everybody. I hope they don’t feel that way.”
Well, they do. Red Sox ownership, which put the full-court press on Teixeira in Texas and had been waiting by the phone hoping to hear the switch-hitting first baseman was theirs, felt used, and so did Angels owner Arturo Moreno. John W. Henry, Boston’s majority owner, huffed in an email afterward that he always figured the Yankees would get the last call.
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, asked Friday if he would shake Teixeira’s hand if offered, gave a diplomatic response.
“I’m always polite,” he said.
Sour grapes? The Yankees certainly believe as much. And clearly, Teixeira saw it as nothing more than business as usual.
But judging by their response Friday night, Red Sox fans are less excised about Teixeira’s rejection than management is. Why? Maybe it’s because Youkilis, Boston’s incumbent first baseman, is off to such a scorching start, with five home runs and a .433 average. Maybe it’s because Mike Lowell, who became a beloved figure while winning World Series MVP honors in 2007, would have been shipped out if the Red Sox had signed Teixeira. Or maybe it’s because it was such an unexpectedly beautiful night for late April.
Whatever the reason, Teixeira heard boos, but nothing like the sour serenade he heard from his hometown Baltimore Orioles fans, who took it personally that a native son passed on returning. Even when he ventured out of the team hotel earlier in the day, Teixeira said he was recognized but that he didn’t hear anything that would make the son of a Navy man blush. Not even close.
“These people are great people,” he said. “They just want the Red Sox to beat the Yankees. I would hope they don’t want any physical harm for me and my family. They just want me to go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.”
Asked what he’d say to Boston fans if given the chance, Teixeira showed a politician’s charm.
“I would say thanks for coming out,” he said. “Thanks for supporting the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. I am much more concerned with going to ballparks and not seeing anybody there. I hope this economy turns around. I hope there’s thousands of people at every single game. You want to boo me, great, just show up and support your team, support baseball and hopefully they’ll be nice to me after the game and when all is said and done.”
On nights that end like this, Red Sox fans are inclined to be nice to anybody. Even a Yankee.