ARLINGTON, Texas -- Having been held without an extra-base hit for two straight games, the New York Yankees got three Tuesday: from Melky Mesa in his first major league start; from Austin Romine, in a rookie season in which he has often looked overmatched; and from Vernon Wells, who has looked finished since April.
On top of that, they got five scoreless innings out of Phil Hughes.
You gotta win that game, right?
Right. But it wasn't easy. In fact, it was practically heart-stopping.
The wheels came off in the sixth inning on the field, in the dugout and on the mound. The Rangers scored four runs in the inning, three of them unearned, and with this offense, it looked as if that was all the Rangers would need to waltz off with a 4-3 victory.
But with the Yankees down to their final two outs, Eduardo Nunez tied the game with a triple to center and Brent Lillibridge, whose sixth-inning error nearly cost his new team a game, singled in Nunez for what turned out to be the game-winning run at The Ballpark to split the first two games of this four-game set.
What it means: That the Yankees still have a chance to win this four-game series with victories Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. They remain in the thick of the AL wild-card hunt.
Nine lives: The Yankees came back to win a game they were trailing after eight innings for just the fourth time in 45 tries this season. The key move, believe it or not, was one manager Joe Girardi did not make. Despite having Travis Hafner, benched for the night, in the on-deck circle to hit for Lillibridge, at the last moment Girardi allowed Lillibridge to hit for himself. The kid came through with the game-winning RBI single.
In safe hands: Mariano Rivera picked up his 32nd save with a 1-2-3 ninth, which included two strikeouts.
Aw, Phil: Hughes pitched a fine game for five innings, then got let down by his third baseman, his manager and his successor, in that order, in the sixth. First, Lillibridge, making his second start as a Yankee at third base in place of a slightly banged-up Luis Cruz, was eaten up by a hot shot off the bat of Nelson Cruz that should have been the second out of the inning. Adrian Beltre followed with an RBI double to cut the Yankee lead to 3-1. Hughes got A.J. Pierzynski to fly out for what should have been the third out, and when Elvis Andrus followed with an RBI single to make it 3-3, Joe Girardi went to Boone Logan to face lefty Mitch Moreland. Moreland hit Logan's second pitch over the center-field fence to give Texas a 4-3 lead, and just like that, Hughes, who was not charged with an earned run, went from the pitcher on the winning side, to the losing side.
Boom Logan: Logan, the Yankees' left-handed specialist, hasn't been very special against them this year. Although he strikes them out at a much higher rate than righties, lefties are hitting .246 against him, righties .231; left-hander's OPS is .682, right-hander's is .657; and lefties have now hit three homers off him, righties two. Worst of all, Moreland had struggled mightily against lefties this year. He came in 0-for-12 against them, and had hit just two homers off lefties in his last 104 at-bats.
Mixed Doubles: After going back-to-back games without an extra-base hit for the fourth time this season, the Yankees rained doubles on The Ballpark, getting back-to-back two-baggers from Mesa and Romine in the third inning -- resulting in the first run of the game -- and a double from Wells, leading off the fourth. Wells wound up scoring the Yankees' third run on a grounder to the infield.
Circus act: Brett Gardner was a busy man in center field, having to chase down six flies, and two of them were spectacular plays. In the fifth, he ran full-speed into the center-field wall to run down Ian Kinsler's drive, and he topped himself in the eighth with a long run capped by a tumbling catch on Andrus' liner in right-center. Considering what happened in the top of the ninth, the play loomed huge in retrospect.