video thumbnail

Must C Clutch: Overbay drills go-head homer in extras

ST. PETERSBURG -- Lyle Overbay can't be sure of how much longer his services as the Yankees' starting first baseman will be needed, but he is certainly going to force the ballclub into making a tough decision.

Overbay crushed a long home run in the 11th inning off Josh Lueke, two innings after working a key walk that helped topple closer Fernando Rodney, as the Yankees stunned the Rays with a 4-3 victory on Saturday at Tropicana Field.

"It felt good," Overbay said. "I'd just been missing fastballs all day. It was good to just get on top of one instead of being late and underneath them. It was exciting to do that. Usually that's what happens when you put a good swing on it."

Mariano Rivera slammed the door in the bottom of the 11th for his 18th save in 18 opportunities, preserving the victory for Ivan Nova after he'd wriggled free of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th.

On a road trip where the Yanks have toppled Orioles closer Jim Johnson and now sent Rodney to his Major League-leading fifth blown save of the season, the events have served as a reminder of how important a weapon like the ageless Rivera truly can be.

"It's pretty nice," said Brett Gardner, who tied the game with an RBI single off Rodney in the ninth. "It's something we definitely take for granted. He's been lights out for us."

The Yankees were down to their final out in the ninth inning when Overbay -- who may have less than a week remaining before Mark Teixeira returns from the disabled list -- worked a six-pitch walk from Rodney.

Brennan Boesch -- called up late Friday night from Triple-A to replace the injured Curtis Granderson -- sent Overbay racing home with an opposite-field double, trimming the Yankees' deficit to one run.

"This kid's done some things in his career, and he has been in some tough situations," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Boesch. "He knows how to play."

Gardner then rapped a changeup into center field, bringing Boesch around with the tying run ahead of catcher Jose Lobaton's tag.

"After we tied it, you have to feel good about your chances," Gardner said. "You know the momentum is on our side, but we're still playing on the road and they've got the last shot at it."

Overbay said that he has been able to savor these moments because, as he put it, "I could be sitting at home right now." Slapped onto the roster at the end of the spring, Overbay now hopes there can be a place for both him and Teixeira on the team.

"I want him back. I've always said, 'He's real good and he's going to give us a good chance,'" Overbay said. "I just hope that I can co-exist with him. We'll soon find out."

With the game tied, Ichiro Suzuki made a terrific catch in right field on Yunel Escobar's liner to right field, helping David Robertson send the game to extra innings.

"Amazing," Girardi said. "I heard some people in the stands close to the dugout say, 'There it is.' They thought the game was over. He's been a great defender for a long time."

The Yanks' bullpen pitched lights out after a seventh-inning wobble. Rookie Vidal Nuno had provided six solid innings before Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan were unable to prevent Tampa Bay from pushing two runs across the plate in the seventh.

In that inning, Jose Molina stroked a run-scoring single off Logan and Escobar followed with a fielder's-choice grounder that shortstop Jayson Nix threw home on, but too late to catch Matt Joyce sliding around Austin Romine's tag as the Rays took a two-run lead.

Girardi said that he wasn't sure if Romine should have blocked the plate better, saying that he'd need to watch a replay to form his opinion.

"I know it's a really close play, because I've heard a number of different answers," Girardi said.

Matt Moore held the Yankees to a first-inning run over six frames in a no-decision. New York scored quickly on Moore as Gardner doubled, advanced on a groundout and came home on Travis Hafner's run-scoring single.

"He pitched really well again; great stuff," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He definitely pitched well enough to win."

And so did Nuno, who permitted two runs and five hits over six-plus innings in his second Major League start. Tampa Bay didn't score on Nuno until the fifth, when Molina and Desmond Jennings doubled to tie the game.

"It feels good to go out there and compete, just knowing they're giving me a shot," Nuno said.

Gardner said that it felt like the Yankees stole one, and they've been in short supply at The Trop, where New York posted a win for just the fifth time in its last 18 games here. But for a newcomer like Overbay, those statistics don't mean a whole lot.

"I had no idea until someone else said it," Overbay said. "I was like, 'Oh really?' You think, we're the Yankees. We beat everybody, right? I know when I was with Toronto, we struggled here too. I guess it's something in the water."

MLB.com Comments