Swisher's walk-off gives Yanks 90th win
Jeter remains three hits behind Gehrig with latest hitless game
NEW YORK -- With 47 home victories, just one shy of their total from last season, the Yankees have already ensured that the inaugural season at the new Yankee Stadium has witnessed a fair share of thrilling moments.
Seemingly every hitter has thrived in the homer-happy confines, with a franchise-record seven players having hit 20 or more homers, a single-season Major League record shared by the Yankees.
But for the first 139 games of this season, Nick Swisher has been an anomaly, becoming the first player in club history to hit 21 of his first 24 homers on the road, a lopsided ratio that has even manager Joe Girardi scratching his head.
So it was only fitting in a season full of promise at a stadium creating history by the second that Swisher would be the Yankee to deliver Tuesday's final blow. The switch-hitting outfielder drove a pitch from Rays reliever Dan Wheeler just over the right-field stands in the bottom of the ninth inning on Tuesday, connecting for his second homer of the game and giving the Yankees a 3-2 walk-off win over the Rays in front of 45,350.
"I think when you get in a situation like that, you're looking for guys like Johnny [Damon], or [Alex Rodriguez] or Melky [Cabrera]," said Swisher, who had been already been victim to some good-natured ribbing following his fifth-inning homer.
"The guys have been busting me a little bit, saying, 'Hey, you're at home -- you already hit your one [homer] for the month. You're done,'" said Swisher. "So it was nice to get that second one."
That second one was the difference-maker, giving the Yankees -- who steamrolled the Rays twice during Monday's doubleheader -- a fourth consecutive win and their 90th of the season.
"You really have to be fine with these guys," Wheeler said. "Talk about a great lineup -- any one of them can do it. You just have to make your pitches. That was the one pitch I didn't make, and it just got out."
It's a sight Girardi could get used to.
"Swish is on a little run now, and it's great to see," said Girardi, who -- like Swisher -- has no real answer for the outfielder's power outage at home.
"I've been trying to figure it out all year," Girardi said. "It's a really strange stat. If he wants to catch up in the month of September, that's all right with me."
As a team, the Yankees hardly need to do any makeup work. With the win, New York improved to 3-0 on its current 10-game homestand and is now a season-high 40 games over .500, with a nine-game lead on second-place Boston in the American League East.
But the Rays hardly made Tuesday's win easy for the Yankees. All-Star shortstop Jason Bartlett sent Phil Hughes' first pitch of the night sailing into the left-field stands to tie the game at 2. The eighth-inning shot snapped a stretch of 12 scoreless outings for Hughes, who allowed Carl Crawford to single before buckling down by retiring Evan Longoria and getting Ben Zobrist to ground into a double play. Bartlett's homer erased the six effective innings thrown by Chad Gaudin, who was locked in a pitchers' duel with Rays phenom David Price for most of the game.
"Gaudin was outstanding," Girardi raved. "His ball was down, his slider was very good, his sinker was very good and his changeup had a bite to it as well. He attacked the zone."
Gaudin, who was originally drafted by the Rays in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, gave up a first-inning triple to Crawford before retiring 11 of the next 12 batters he faced.
In his longest stint since lasting seven innings as a member of the Padres on July 26, Gaudin ran out of gas in the seventh, getting ahead of Longoria, 0-2, before giving up a leadoff homer, then a walk and a single. Gaudin exited with a rousing ovation from the crowd, and the trio of Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney and Phil Coke combined to get out of a bases-loaded jam unscathed.
"I got out there and got us deep into the game, and that's what I wanted to do," Gaudin said. "It doesn't matter if I got the win or not, as long as we win the ballgame."
Hughes, who entered the game with a 1.08 ERA in 33 relief outings, was of a similar mind-set.
"It seems like it's been everybody in here [picking the team up] at one time or another," Hughes said.
"Not everybody's going to perfect every night, sometimes we got to pick each other up."
Swisher's first homer -- a fifth-inning solo drive -- was a huge shot in the arm for the Yanks, who couldn't muster another hit off Price until Mark Teixeira connected for a two-out single in the sixth. Teixeira's hit moved Johnny Damon, who had walked, over to second base and allowed him to score on A-Rod's single down the left-field line.
But despite all of the good that came out of Tuesday's win, Derek Jeter's goose-egg in the box score was a glaring statistic given the captain's highly scrutinized homestand.
Jeter, who went hitless in eight at-bats during Monday's doubleheader, continued to scuffle on Tuesday in his quest to become the Yankees' all-time hits leader, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Jeter has been silent at the plate since going 3-for-3 on Sunday in Toronto, and he remains just three hits shy of tying Lou Gehrig's franchise record of 2,721.
"It's going to happen," said Swisher. "The great thing about him is that even when he doesn't get hits, he's still our team captain. He's still there rooting guys. He's a tremendous teammate."
And he's a player poised to become the franchise leader in hits, whenever that may be.
"He's getting some ribbing from his teammates," Girardi said. "But as I said before, this is going to happen."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.