David Robertson -- and the rest of the 40,908 on hand at Yankee Stadium -- thought the game was over.
With the Yanks up 4-3 and the tying run on base, Albert Pujols lofted a sky-high fly ball toward the first-base stands. Mark Teixeira seemed to be camped under it. But before he could glove it, a fan in the first row interfered and the ball bounced into the stands.
Teixeira wasn’t happy about it. Neither was Robertson.
“My initial thought was, ‘You gotta be kidding me,'" the Yankees closer said.
But this was no joking matter. With the game on the line, Robertson had to figure out a way to do something that none of his colleagues had much success with recently -- getting Pujols out.
The Angels slugger had gone 6-for-12 with three homers and seven RBIs in his previous six games.
“You don’t want that to happen in the ninth inning with Pujols up,” Teixeira said.
Luckily for the Yankees, Robertson retired Pujols after six high-pressure pitches to preserve the lead. He then struck out Howie Kendrick swinging to end the game.
Afterward, the Yankees could joke about the fan interference.
“We came out on top and it wasn’t a 'Bartman' experience, so that’s all that matters,” Teixeira said in reference to Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who interfered with a foul ball that helped lead to a monumental collapse in the 2003 NLCS.
Thanks to Robertson, there was no collapse Saturday for the Yankees.
The righty earned his third save of the season and first at Yankee Stadium in his first save opportunity in nearly three weeks. The closer has spent time on the disabled list because of a left groin strain and has only made five appearances this season, the first since he took over for the retired Mariano Rivera.
“I think he’ll get comfortable really quickly,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s got great stuff.”
Robertson’s high-wire act was part of a larger theme for the Yankees’ bullpen Saturday. The Bombers' relievers preserved a one-run lead for the final four-plus innings and had to navigate through the Pujols-Mike Trout tandem several times to do so.
With the score tied at three and one on in the fifth, reliever Dellin Betances (who earned his first career win) came in for starter Vidal Nuno and got Pujols to ground out and Kendrick to pop out to end the inning.
“We did exactly what we’re supposed to do,” Robertson said. “We put up zeroes and got a win.”
Murph! John Ryan Murphy hit what turned out to be the game-winning homer with a solo shot to lead off the fifth. It was the first home run of Murphy’s career. He got the ball afterward and said he was going to give it to his mother, Caroline. Murphy drove in three of the Yankees’ four runs. He’d driven in just one run over the first 21 games of his career.
Gardy OK: Gardner was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning. The fastball hit him in his left foot. He said X-rays were negative. Gardner was optimistic he could keep the swelling down and suit up in Sunday night’s series finale.