Yankees 7, Nationals 5
WASHINGTON (AP)—It sounded like a home game for the Yankees much of the night, and chants of “Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” rang throughout RFK Stadium in the ninth inning.
Bernie Williams hit a solo home run in the ninth for his fourth hit, extending a recent personal surge and putting New York ahead to stay in a 7-5 victory over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
Williams was taken aback by the rousing support on the road.
“It’s a little weird. It’s a testament to how many great Yankee fans we had coming down here. If they can make the trip to Baltimore, I think they can probably just drive the extra half an hour and come to the stadium and cheer for us,” Williams said. “It was a great feeling.”
Williams hit the first pitch he saw from Cordero, a changeup, for his sixth homer of the season, and Johnny Damon later added a sacrifice fly for the final margin.
For Williams, his 4-for-5 night with a double makes him 9-for-15 with two homers and four doubles in his last four games. Not bad for a 37-year-old reserve playing regularly now because of injuries to Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui.
“He’s been such a great player for the 11 years I have been here, especially in situations where you need something to happen,” said manager Joe Torre, who served a one-game suspension Friday.
Bench coach Lee Mazzilli ran the Yankees, and he was stunned by the crowd’s prolonged celebration of Williams’ big hit.
“I was telling the guys on the bench, ‘How many places do you go to a visiting ball park and fans are asking him to come out?’ It kind of gives you goosebumps,” Mazzilli said.
It was only the third time in 20 tries that the Yankees mounted a comeback for a victory after trailing at the end of seven innings.
“They kept coming,” said Washington’s Nick Johnson, who hit two doubles against his former team.
The rally made a winner of Mariano Rivera (4-3), who got the final five outs. He came into a game that was tied 5-5 when Kyle Farnsworth left with back spasms after fielding a comebacker from the only batter he faced, Jose Vidro.
The Yankees have won three of four games; the Nationals have lost five in a row.
Those visiting New Yorkers brought out 44,749 fans, the largest crowd to see a game at RFK Stadium since major league baseball returned to the nation’s capital last season. Many spectators wore Yankees jerseys, and the “Let’s go, Yankees!” chants began in the top of the first, drawing some boos from the Nationals’ supporters.
More than 15 minutes after the final out, people streaming out of the stadium were still yelling out pro-Yankees chants.
“You wish that the Nationals fans would kind of pipe up a little more, maybe try to drown them out a little bit,” said Washington starter Shawn Hill, who allowed three runs in his innings.
He hit Melky Cabrera with the bases loaded in the fourth, making the score 3-3. Earlier, Hill’s first major league hit, a broken-bat single, came ahead of Alfonso Soriano’s two-run homer off Jaret Wright in the third.
Washington went up 4-3 in the fourth on pinch-hitter Daryle Ward’s sac fly. The Nationals made it 5-3 in the sixth, when Wright walked Johnson to open the inning, then was removed after only 76 pitches. Reliever Scott Proctor came on to face Ryan Zimmerman and promptly surrendered an RBI double.
“You have to win these type of games,” Washington manager Frank Robinson said. “You’re leading by two runs in the seventh inning, you have to win your share of these games, and we’re not doing that.”
Bullpen coach John Wetteland was fired Thursday, an unusual move so early in a season, brought on by what Robinson considered a lack of discipline among his pranks-loving relief corps. Minor league manager Randy Knorr was brought as the replacement Friday, and if the approach was any different, the results were not what the Nationals wanted.
Rookie Bill Bray and 6-foot-11 Jon Rauch got through the seventh. But Majewski ran into trouble in the eighth, when the Yankees scored twice to tie it at 5 with four consecutive singles and a bases-loaded walk.
Cordero came in and struck out slumping Alex Rodriguez swinging. Rodriguez— 1-for-5 with three strikeouts—threw his bat down, ripped off his batting gloves, and tossed his helmet.
That ended the threat in the eighth, but then came the ninth, and Williams’ heroics.
As expected, Yankees LHP Randy Johnson appealed his five-game suspension for throwing at an opposing batter, Torre said. … Yankees 2B Robinson Cano’s single in the second extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games, the longest for a Yankees player this season. … Wright allowed five runs in his five-plus innings. … Nationals SS Royce Clayton injured his right shoulder while diving for a hit and left the game.