In the playoffs, sound baseball is key. Offense, defense, pitching – the team that makes the least mistakes usually wins. Tonight, the Texas Rangers literally threw away a chance at going up 2-0 in the best of five series when Dean Palmer made an errant throw to first base on a bunt, allowing Derek Jeter to score the walk-off run in the 12th inning. The Yankees now have life, and the series is tied 1-1.
With the game tied at four in the bottom of the 12th, Jeter lead off the inning with a single. Tim Raines followed with a walk, bringing up Charlie Hayes. Manager Joe Torre wanted to move the runners up and called for a bunt. Hayes laid it down perfectly to third base, forcing Palmer to field the ball. He threw wide to first, and Jeter was able to score easily. The Yankees poured out of the dugout, mobbing Jeter at home and Hayes at first.
“We were all jumping up and down in the dugout when it happened,” Mariano Duncan said. “I’m sure they would have been, too. We could not afford to lose this game” (Via NY Times).
The Yankees understood the importance of today’s game. Going to Texas down 0-2 would have been daunting. Now, the series is competitive. “If you’re down 0-2, you go to Texas and hope something crazy happens. At 1-1, we got a series,” said Paul O’Neill (Via NY Times).
Andy Pettitte started the game for the Yankees, going 6.1 innings and allowing four runs on four hits while walking six. He served up two home runs to the Rangers – both to Juan Gonzalez – to put the Yankees in a 4-1 hole after four innings.
The Yankees scratched across a run in the seventh when Hayes, who pinch-hit for Wade Boggs, drove home Joe Girardi with a sac fly. In the eighth, they tied the game when Cecil Fielder singled home Bernie Williams. The bullpen was able to lock it down until the Yankees were able to rally in the 12th.
The Yankees now head to Arlington, where they struggled to find wins in the regular season. For Torre, the challenge is what it is. “As far as thinking negatively about going to Arlington, we have no choice about where we play,” Manager Joe Torre said. “We have to play in Arlington. That’s what we have to do. We’re more determined to give our best effort without being psyched out” (Via NY Times).
The Yankees and Rangers have a day off tomorrow before resuming their series in Texas. Jimmy Key starts against Darren Oliver.