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NEW YORK -- Give Mark Teixeira credit for this: When he said he always hustles, he was telling the truth.
On Friday night, he hustled out of the box on a potential double-play ball, enabling his team to score three first-inning runs in what turned out to be a 10-3 win over the Boston Red Sox.
On Saturday night, he tried to hustle a group of reporters into believing that his eighth-inning bomb off Vicente Padilla -- the Boston reliever who three weeks ago had accused him of racism, cowardice and lack of masculinity -- was just another home run.
|Mark Teixeira made like Reggie and stopped to admire his home run handiwork.|
Of course, it was anything but. Not only did Teixeira's two-run blast tie a game in which the New York Yankees had trailed by as much as 6-1, but it prompted a most un-Teixeira-like response: He actually loitered in the batter's box as the ball arced into the right-field seats, a rare bit of styling from a generally unstylish player.
"I just wanted to make sure it was fair," he said, without a wink, a smile or any trace of irony. "Balls have been hooking a lot tonight. Curtis [Granderson] hit a few that hooked, so I didn't want to waste a lot of energy running out of the box if that ball goes foul. It's been a long day."
This coming from a guy who less than 24 hours earlier had spoken, quite affectingly, of how his dad ingrained in him at an early age the importance of always hustling on the field.
"When I was a kid, my dad never got mad at me for striking out or popping out or making an error," he had said. "But if I didn't hustle, that's when he would get on me."
And besides, Teixeira's shot -- his 20th of the season -- landed in front of the bleachers in right-center field. If you know anything about the geography of Yankee Stadium 3.0, that is about 100 feet from the right-field foul pole. So clearly, Teixeira's explanation was invented to cover up a moment that might have embarrassed him and an incident that he certainly hopes will just go away.
Well, no chance of that.
If there is anything this moribund rivalry has needed, it is a new villain to inject some fresh bad blood into the equation.
Enter Vicente Padilla. (Or, if you're a Red Sox fan, Mark Teixeira.)
With Jason Varitek retired, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz on the disabled list, and the Red Sox dead in the water at 10½ games back of the Yankees in the American League East, there really was very little for anyone on either side to get riled up over, in the field or in the stands.
Even the fact that the Red Sox came back to win this one 8-6 when Granderson botched Pedro Ciriaco's ninth-inning fly, doesn't mean much in the overall scheme of things, nor does the fact that the Yankees' ace, CC Sabathia, no longer seems to be able to beat Boston, having lost four of five decisions to the Red Sox last year and pitched poorly in his first start against them this year.
The way things are going, Sabathia's next important start will be in the first game of the AL Division Series, and the Red Sox will not be the opponent.
But the Yankees and Red Sox will meet 10 more times this season, and at some point, Padillia and Teixeira will face each other again. That's about the only time things will get truly interesting.
"There's some bad blood there," Joe Girardi said. "[Padilla has] hit him a bunch of times. Tex hit a big home run for us at the time, but you move on to the next day."
Quick refresher course: Teixeira believes the problems between he and Padilla stem from his hitting home runs in his first two at-bats against the righty in 2005, after which, Teixeira says, Padilla began throwing at him.
Later, when the two were teammates in Texas, Teixeira said, he often was thrown at by opposing pitchers in retaliation for Padilla's head-hunting.
Padilla, in comments to NESN.com and ESPN Deportes, said Teixeira would "be better off playing a women's sport" and that "he has a bit of a problem with Hispanic players."
Wherever the truth resides, there is no doubt these two don't like each other, and the outcome of their first encounter after that verbal exchange only makes it more likely they won't be sharing a house in the Hamptons anytime soon.
Asked whether he had taken the opportunity to "clear the air" with Padilla since their squabble went public, Teixeira said, "No, there's no reason to," meaning that the air between them has become so fouled it could not be cleared.
"There's no problem," Teixeira said. "Then again, it's me, so there might be a problem, but until then, we'll just play baseball."
Predictably, the buttoned-up Yankees tried to move as far away from the Teixeira-Padilla feud as possible.
"I haven't seen all his home runs, so I don't know what he normally does," Granderson said when asked whether he was surprised to see Teixeira pose at home plate. "You got to ask him about that one. Once he hit it, I'm following the ball out."
"I don't get caught up in any of that," Girardi said.
"Hey, that's not my fight," said Nick Swisher.
No, the fight is clearly between Teixeira and Padilla, and as long as it remains a duel fought with a baseball and a bat from 60 feet, 6 inches, it should add some long-missing sizzle to a rivalry that had gone disappointingly flat.
Teixeira did his best to maintain the position that he was able to drain all the emotion out of that key at-bat. "I'm just trying to tie the game up there," he said. "It had been a hard-fought game, and when you have the chance to tie it late, you just don't want to miss your pitch."
But when asked whether this was the most satisfying of the 334 home runs he has hit in his career, Teixeira belted one more out of the park.
"Absolutely not," he said. "I've hit plenty that were more satisfying. I would say hitting a walk-off in the playoffs [Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS] was a little more satisfying than that one."
If revenge is a dish best served cold, Teixeira pulled this serving right out of the freezer. Can hardly wait for the next course.