08/11/09 11:39 PM ET
Upheld homer sparks Yankees' rally
Posada follows Matsui in eighth with shot prompting review
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
Put them in a small ballpark, all the better. Put them in a pennant chase, all the more reason.
Such was the formula Joe Girardi enjoyed Tuesday, when Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada hit back-to-back homers to send his Yankees to a 7-5 win over the Blue Jays. It was the third consecutive game in which the Yankees had gone back-to-back, and this one came at a rather opportune time.
Rather than slide into a losing streak, as they have after other winning runs, the Yankees on Tuesday began what they can only hope to be another positive streak. They have the power -- and certainly the confidence -- to do it. And now they have the first victory out of the way.
"Today was a very important win," Matsui said through an interpreter. "After winning four games against the Red Sox, losing yesterday and then possibly losing today, it may seem on the outside like we're sort of deflating."
They took their cues from the Yankee Stadium crowd, which for seven innings had little reason to cheer. But the Bombers, so humbled by the Jays' bullpen Monday, would not stay mellow again. Matsui led off the eighth by blasting reliever Jesse Carlson's eighth pitch into the second deck in right field, moments after sending his seventh pitch screaming roughly 30 feet foul.
His shot tied the game, earning him a curtain call.
"That's a home run in Yellowstone," Jays manager Citi Gaston said. "He hit that ball a long way."
Posada, the next batter, did not. His home run just barely cleared the right-field wall, landing in the glove of a fan standing in the general direction of Jeffrey Maier. Rounding the bases with what he assumed to be the game-winning run, Posada then jogged straight to the video room behind the Yankees' dugout to confirm.
Posada saw a home run, and the umpires agreed. After a video review, their original ruling stood.
The game was not over, however, and if not for the insurance runs that Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon knocked home later in the eighth, it might have lasted well into morning. Mariano Rivera, who had not allowed a run over his past 22 1/3 innings, served up a booming solo homer to Edwin Encarnacion with one out in the ninth.
But it was just that -- a solo shot -- and the Yankees were winning by three. They gladly settled for a two-run margin instead.
"He has been so good," Girardi said of Rivera, referring to his judge's role in the kangaroo court session the Yankees held Tuesday. "He just showed today that the judge is human."
Notably absent from that court was Matsui, who incurred Rivera's light-hearted wrath when he forgot about the event and showed up late to the Stadium. Matsui had not started a game since Saturday, despite Girardi's insistence that he will play him against lefties. Yet even Matsui has agreed that the ample rest has allowed his 35-year-old knees to stay healthy.
Eight times Matsui bent those knees in the eighth, fouling off four pitches before he found one he could drive. And when he drove it, he drove it far.
"Matsui's at-bat -- what a great at-bat," Girardi said. "That just turned it around."
"The fans needed something to cheer about," Posada said. "And Matsui woke them up."
It was all enough to almost forget about Joba Chamberlain, making his last start until who-knows-when. Unaware of Girardi's plan to push his next start back in order to limit his innings, Chamberlain pitched well -- except one major hiccup in the third.
Never quite in a rhythm, constantly shaking off Posada early in the game, Chamberlain loaded the bases on two walks and a hit. Then he grooved a pitch to Lyle Overbay, who smacked it into center for a three-run double.
Chamberlain lasted six innings, allowing Randy Ruiz's solo homer in addition to that hit. And he appreciated the late offense, which gave David Robertson the win and took him off the hook for a loss.
"It's never over with this team," Chamberlain said. "That just shows the character of this team, that we can win in a lot of ways."
Those ways include pitching, certainly, but also an extreme amount of power. Now on track to break the team's season record of 242 homers by a half-dozen, the Yankees on Monday went back-to-back for the third consecutive game.
Damon and Mark Teixeira did it Sunday, followed by Robinson Cano and Jerry Hairston Jr. on Monday. Back-to-back, three times, accomplished by six different hitters.
"I guess the only explanation that I can give is that we have veteran hitters that have power," Girardi said. "They know how to look for pitches."
They know how to hit them, too. And they know how to appreciate them.
"You can never get enough curtain calls here," Matsui said.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.