Melky Cabrera’s homer ends marathon with A’s
April 22, 2009
NEW YORK ” Melky Cabrera turned on a fastball and sent it soaring into the right-field stands, down an entryway in the bleachers that sparked remaining fans to sprint for the sought-after souvenir.
After all the homers at the new Yankee Stadium over the past week, the first homestand in the $1.5 billion ballpark just had to end with a home run. And not just any homer, but the first game-ending shot in the stadium’s brief history.
Cabrera’s 14th-inning drive, the fifth home run of the game, concluded a 4-hour, 57-minute marathon Wednesday, a 9-7 Yankees win over the Oakland Athletics. It was the 26th home run at the stadium, one more than the previous record for the first six games at a major league venue. That had been established at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium in 1955, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I understand everybody’s making a big deal out of home runs,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “Melky’s ball would have been out of anywhere. It’s not like there’s cheap home runs being hit.”
The switch-hitting Cabrera connected from both sides of the plate, also homering in the second batting right-handed against Brett Anderson after a drive by Hideki Matsui. Jeter also homered for the Yankees, whose four homers raised their homestand total to 14.
“The last one would have gone out anywhere,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said.
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Beaten out by Brett Gardner for New York’s center-field job during spring training, Cabrera is 4-for-16 with four homers and six RBIs in the new home. He flung his batting helmet a few steps before crossing the plate and getting mobbed by teammates.
“The manager showed enough confidence that he puts me in when he has to,” Cabrera said through a translator. “Anywhere the manager wants to use me, I’m going to be ready.”
New York’s latest outburst obscured another shaky outing from CC Sabathia, 1-1 with a 4.81 ERA in four starts since signing a $161 million, seven-year contract to join the Yankees as a free agent. New York won four of six on the homestand, getting outscored 32-6 in the two losses to Cleveland and winning the remaining games by a combined 27-18.
“We had some interesting games, to say the least,” was manager Joe Girardi’s assessment.
There were 481 pitches, of which 225 were thrown by New York. Jose Veras (1-1), the seventh Yankees pitcher, had career highs of 46 pitches and 3 1-3 innings.
Veras gave up a tiebreaking double to Jhonny Peralta in the April 16 stadium opener. He walked his first batter in this one, Jason Giambi, and went to a 2-0 count on Matt Holliday before inducing a flyout. That was the first of a streak of 10 straight outs, capping 7 1-3 innings of scoreless, three-hit relief for New York’s bullpen.
“I let my team down the first game,” he said.
Dan Giese (0-2), claimed off waivers from the Yankees two weeks earlier, allowed the winning homer one out after Nick Swisher’s leadoff walk. On Saturday, Giese gave up a game-ending, two-run homer to Toronto’s Lyle Overbay in the 12th inning of a 4-2 loss.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Giese said. “Coming to a new team, you want to establish yourself.”
Sabathia feels much the same way. He allowed seven runs ” six earned ” six hits and four walks in 6 2-3 innings with two strikeouts, and he was booed by the crowd that seemed far smaller than the 43,342 announced on the rainy afternoon.
In 24 1-3 innings, he’s walked 14 while striking out just 12.
“I’m just trying to be too fine,” he said, “trying to throw right to the corners.”
Kurt Suzuki put the A’s ahead with a three-run homer in the second, a drive reaffirmed by umpires following a video review that determined there was no fan interference with left fielder Johnny Damon. On Sunday, Jorge Posada’s homer to right was upheld, a drive on which the Indians claimed a spectator reached over, as Jeffrey Maier did on Jeter’s key home run against Baltimore in the 1996 playoffs.
“They are on top of it,” New York’s Mark Teixeira said of the fans. “It’s going to happen a lot, unfortunately, but that’s the way they built the stadium.”
After Jeter homered for a 5-4 lead in the fourth, Sabathia gave up an RBI single to Mark Ellis in the sixth.
Jeter hit an RBI double off Michael Wuertz in the bottom half and scored on Teixeira’s single, but Sabathia allowed his first two runners to reach in the seventh, then gave up Giambi’s run-scoring grounder. Following a trip to the mound by Girardi to check on his pitcher, Sabathia stayed in and allowed Holliday’s tying single.
Giambi also scored on Jack Cust’s third-inning infield grounder, when Jeter threw home only to find that Posada had vacated the plate to back up first.
“It’s my fault,” Posada said.
New York could have built a lead in the seventh after loading the bases with no outs, but Russ Springer struck out Cabrera and retired Gardner and Jeter on popups.
All the home runs are likely to generate continuing debate. Seventeen went to right field, raising suspicion that there might be a wind tunnel.
“It will take many more games to test and prove the wind theory,” Accuweather.com said. “There is the tremendous human factor to be considered; pitching and batting skills of both the Yankees and visiting teams.”
Notes: Gardner’s broken bat Tuesday night that went into the stands was taken by Jacob Smith, the 10-year-old cousin of MSNBC broadcaster Keith Olbermann. At the old Yankee Stadium in 2000, Olbermann’s mother, Marie, was hit by an errant throw from Yankees 2B Chuck Knoblauch. … Monday’s rainout was rescheduled for July 23 at 7:05 p.m. … Oakland rested 3B Eric Chavez against Sabathia.