With the upstart Baltimore Orioles right on their tail, the New York Yankees can’t afford to slip up down the stretch. They went to great lengths to earn an important victory on Saturday night.
New York’s 10-9 win over the Oakland Athletics took 14 innings and 5 hours and 43 minutes to play but kept them atop the standings in the American League East. A costly error by Athletics first baseman Brandon Moss led to the game-changing moment of the week.
The Yankees appeared to be finished after the A's scored four runs in the top of the 13th inning. But they rallied for two runs before Raul Ibanez hit a game-tying two-run homer to send it to the 14th.
With the bases loaded and two out, Eduardo Nunez came to the plate. A 1-0 pitch was hit hard, but playable, down the first-base line to Moss. Moss booted it, allowing Ichiro Suzuki to score the winning run.
The wild victory was the Yankees’ second extra-innings win in a row over the A’s and maintained their one-game division lead over the hard-charging Orioles.
''I told you all along that I like the fight in this team,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ''Some of the things we go through, we find ways to get back up.''
The tables were turned in Sunday’s finale of the three-game series. Nunez, playing shortstop because of an injury to Derek Jeter, made a key error in the sixth inning that allowed the A’s to take the lead. Oakland held on for a 5-4 lead to avoid the sweep.
Baltimore’s 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sunday means the Yankees still lead the AL East by one game. The Orioles and Athletics occupy the two AL wild-card spots, but Baltimore has the top spot by one game, meaning it would host the one-game wild-card showdown.
The Yankees begin a seven-game road trip in Minnesota on Monday, then finish with three games at home against the Red Sox. The Orioles have seven games at home (Toronto and Boston) before concluding the regular season on the road in Tampa Bay.
The Athletics have arguably the toughest schedule remaining, with seven of their last 10 against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, whom they trail by four games.
The San Francisco Giants are headed back to the postseason after clinching the National League West and have a resurgent Pablo Sandoval to thank for their recent success.
Sandoval had a week to remember as San Francisco won six in a row to clinch the division title on Saturday night. Sandoval batted .478 for the week with four home runs, nine RBIs and six runs.
Sandoval had only 17 playoff at-bats during the Giants’ 2010 run to the World Series title, but he is sure to be a regular contributor as they enter the 2012 postseason.
He’s not just offense, either. This great catch against the San Diego Padres on Saturday highlighted the Giants' win.