CHICAGO -- The shadows were creeping across the third-base line as a late afternoon at Wrigley Field threatened to bleed into the evening hours, and now Preston Claiborne was carrying a bat in his bare hands -- no batting gloves; he'd never had a reason to ask for a pair.
Claiborne huddled with third-base coach Rob Thomson, who promised him that the infield grass would deaden the ball -- as long as he could make contact. And since the Yankees bullpen was responsible for pushing the game to this 13th inning, why shouldn't a reliever be trusted with such a pivotal moment?
In his first big league plate appearance, Claiborne advanced the go-ahead run with a textbook bunt, setting up Brendan Ryan to score on a wild pitch. John Ryan Murphy followed with an RBI single as the Yankees rallied late, logging a 4-2 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.
"They gave me a job to do, and all I told myself was, 'Don't bail on your teammates, hang in there and get it down,'" Claiborne said. "I couldn't help but smile -- first time I've been in a batter's box in seven years."
After the successful bunt put two runners in scoring position with one out, Cubs reliever Jose Veras uncorked the wild offering over Murphy's head, and the catcher answered by knocking home Yangervis Solarte with a bloop hit to right field.
Claiborne said that he had practiced bunting this spring off a pitching machine, but hadn't faced a pitcher since the Cape Cod League. He picked up the sacrifice as well as the win in relief; the Yankees used eight pitchers in all, with the bullpen logging 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball.
"It's why we won the game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "If they end up getting two runs from the bullpen, they win the game, 3-2. They were excellent. Everyone was involved."
David Robertson pitched the bottom of the 13th for his ninth save of the year, in a four-hour and 39-minute game that featured four "final" Wrigley Field at-bats for Derek Jeter, who finished the day 1-for-7 and was cheered loudly each time he came to the plate from the eighth inning on.
"I kept hoping it was the last one, every time I went up there," Jeter said. "I was hoping the game wouldn't take that long, but I told you, the way the fans have been treating me on the road this year -- it's been unbelievable."
Blanked over the first eight frames, New York trailed by two runs heading to the ninth before tying the game against Chicago right-hander Hector Rondon.
Mark Teixeira opened the inning with a broken-bat single and Brian McCann walked, yielding to Ryan as a pinch-runner. Solarte punched a single into center field, loading the bases for Ichiro Suzuki, who hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop Starlin Castro.
Teixeira charged home on contact, and while trying to turn the double play, second baseman Darwin Barney's throw went wide of first base for an error, allowing Ryan to score the tying run.
"It just got away; Ichiro running, grass is slow," Barney said. "I thought I had to rush it a little bit. You look at it again and maybe I should've ate it."
The late rally extended a run of tough luck for Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, who permitted just four hits over seven scoreless innings. Despite a 1.46 ERA, best in the Majors, Samardzija's winless streak extended to 16 starts with the no-decision.
"I know he hasn't gotten a win, but you see why he's tough to deal with," Jeter said. "We were fortunate to win this one."
Chase Whitley made his second big league start and logged a no-decision, allowing one run and six hits over 4 1/3 innings. The Cubs posted their run off Whitley in the fourth, as Luis Valbuena singled, moved to third base on a pair of hits and came home on Mike Olt's sacrifice fly to center field.
A converted reliever, Whitley received an early hook at 71 pitches, exiting with a runner at third and one out in the fifth. Dellin Betances pitched out of the jam with another strong relief appearance, tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
"I thought again [Whitley] did a tremendous job," Girardi said. "But I have that one weapon [in Betances] where he's pretty good at striking people out, and I thought we needed a strikeout."
The Cubs added a run in the seventh off Adam Warren. Ryan Kalish ripped a one-out, pinch-hit triple and scored on Emilio Bonifacio's squeeze bunt, which Warren fielded and flipped with his glove too late to catch Kalish sliding past McCann.
The Yankees' bullpen was terrific from there. Alfredo Aceves pitched around an eighth-inning single, Matt Daley logged five outs and Matt Thornton recorded a pair of outs to get the ball to Claiborne, who hurled 1 2/3 scoreless before the bats finally got cooking in the 13th.
"Everyone contributed today," Claiborne said. "That was a grind, especially coming off a long game last night and the rain -- but everybody stepped up and did their job, defense especially. It was a good win for us."