Down 0-2 in a best-of-five ALDS series, the Yankees were in Oakland trying to stave off elimination on this date back in 2001. The game featured a matchup of two aces – Barry Zito and Mike Mussina – so offense was expected to be limited. And it was.
Jorge Posada came up to the plate in the top of the fifth inning, and sent a 1-0 pitch to left-field for a solo home run – giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead. That was all Mussina needed, as he navigated through a tough A’s lineup. Oakland mounted a threat in the seventh when Jeremy Giambi singled with two out. Terrence Long came up, and lined a double down the right field line into the corner.
Shane Spencer came over to dig the ball out as Giambi was rounding third base. He uncorked a throw towards home plate, which was intended for either cut-off man, Tino Martinez or Alfonso Soriano. However, the ball flew over their heads and was about to die between home and first base. Out of nowhere, shortstop Derek Jeter fielded the errant throw and in one motion, flipped the ball to Posada who tagged Giambi as he ran by.
The play ended the inning and preserved the Yankees one-run lead. Mariano Rivera came on in the eighth for a two-inning save, eventually closing out the game in the ninth after allowing a one-out double. The win saved the Yankees season, as they went on to tie the series the following day before going back to New York and winning game five 5-3.
The play by Jeter is probably his landmark moment on a baseball field. It was a play that no one had seen before, and a play that no one will see again. Jeter’s awareness and instincts were on full display that day, as he saved the game and the Yankees season. He had no business being where he was, and surprised everyone when he fielded the ball. The moment will forever be remembered as “The Flip Play.”
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