To slide into first base or not to slide? It's a frequent argument among baseball people and fans. Some think it's a hustle play, diving headfirst to beat the throw to first base. Others feel running through the bag is the fastest way to get there.
But regardless of whether the Brett Gardner(notes) made a smart move by diving into first base to begin the eighth inning, there's no question it was a huge play for the New York Yankees. Gardner slapped a ball to first, which was fielded by Jorge Cantu(notes), then flipped over to C.J. Wilson(notes) covering the bag.
Standard play, right?
Yes, except Gardner ended his sprint with a headfirst lunge toward first base, touching his left hand to the bag just ahead of Wilson's right foot.
"I knew when he stepped on my hand," Gardner said (via the Star-Ledger) "that his foot got there after my hand. That was a good feeling."
Gardner was safe, and his hustle despite being down four runs spelled the beginning of the end for the Texas Rangers in Game 1.
Here's how the rest of the Yanks' eighth-inning exploits went down:
• Darren Oliver(notes) took over for Wilson and could not throw a strike, resulting in walks to Nick Swisher(notes) and Mark Teixeira(notes) to load the bases. The Rangers' other Darren, Darren O'Day(notes), came in to tee up a fastball that Alex Rodriguez(notes) scorched past third base for a two-run single.
(Some critics say Michael Young(notes) should've gotten in front of that ball to knock it down, instead of playing it like a matador. But had he done so, Young might have been nursing a hole in his chest after the game.)
• After O'Day, in comes Clay Rapada(notes) for a lefty-on-lefty match-up against Robinson Cano(notes). That lasted all of one pitch, a fastball out over the plate that Cano hit up the middle to drive in the game-tying run.
• Texas manager Ron Washington then made the curious decision to bring in Derek Holland(notes) to face Marcus Thames(notes). Thames hit .300 against left-handers this year, and spent most of the past two seasons as the Detroit Tigers' primary designated hitter against lefties.
Holland actually pitched Thames well, pounding him inside. But Thames got enough of an inside fastball to muscle a broken-bat single that drove in the go-ahead run and completed a crushing comeback for the Yankees.
No, the Yankees didn't score five runs solely because of Gardner's slide. But if the Rangers get that out, who knows how that eighth inning changes?