With the nail-biting pennant race going on, Joe Girardi said “”I would have to say so. With 13 games to go, we’re fighting for the division and that’s just a huge hit.”
The schedule is growing thin, the games are becoming more crucial, and the Yankees went home with exactly what they needed on this night. Martin’s 10th-inning blast was the game-winner, lifting New York to a 2-1 victory over the Athletics on Friday at Yankee Stadium.
Martin delivered his second walk-off homer of the season, this one off Oakland’s Sean Doolittle, as the Yankees won their sixth straight game and posted their 11th victory in the last 16 games.
“Russ going deep, that was huge,” said Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, who pitched eight scoreless innings in a no-decision. “We haven’t had a lot of walk-offs here since 2009. To get that one, it was great.”
New York maintained a one-game lead in the American League East as the Orioles defeated the Red Sox in Boston, and manager Joe Girardi said Martin’s hit might be the most important of the season thus far.
“Probably, yeah,” Girardi said. “I would have to say so. With 13 games to go, we’re fighting for the division and that’s just a huge hit.”
Martin sent the Yankees home smiling after Sabathia’s dominant work was only good for a no-decision, as Brandon Moss slugged a pinch-hit solo homer off Rafael Soriano in the ninth to tie the game.
Moss’ one-out blast to right field marked Soriano’s fourth blown save in 46 chances this season, and it shouldn’t erase the shine from Sabathia’s 11-strikeout performance, the type of outing that the Yankees have been waiting for their ace to provide.
“I always feel like I need an outing like this, especially with the race being as tight as it is,” Sabathia said. “Being able to get tonight, it feels good.”
Sabathia fanned 10 or more batters for the fifth time this season, setting down 15 of the first 16 batters he faced before Stephen Drew’s clean single to center field leading off the sixth inning.
“I know it’s been a season where it hasn’t been vintage CC,” Girardi said, “but here’s a guy with an ERA under 3.50 [3.47] and we’re not calling it vintage CC. That’s how good he is. Tonight might have been the best game he’s pitched all year.”
Wielding a biting slider and effective changeups as his best weapons, Sabathia walked two and permitted just three hits in a 113-pitch showing.
It hasn’t been the best season for Martin, but he may be turning things around just in time to wipe away all the harsh memories of a sub-.200 batting average that frustrated the second-year Yankees catcher.
“Russell has been a clutch player for a good part of his career,” Girardi said. “He’s been in big moments, he’s been in playoff spots. He’s a good player.”
In fact, Martin received honors as the Yankees’ September Player of the Month this week, despite the fact that the month is hardly complete. As long as Martin keeps producing big hits like this, nobody is about to challenge that call.
“We’re in September. Every win is magnified,” Martin said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time. Hopefully we can keep it up.”