ARLINGTON, Texas — The New York Yankees took full advantage of an unusual slip by Joe Nathan.
The All-Star closer threw a wild pitch when he caught his cleat on the mound, Eduardo Nunez hit the next delivery for a tying triple and then Brent Lillibridge followed with a go-ahead single to give the Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
“And off a very good closer,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ” It all starts with an innocent walk, then you get a big at-bat by Nuney, then Lillibridge and you get a win.”
New York’s ninth-inning comeback got started when Vernon Wells drew a one-out walk from Nathan (1-1). Wells advanced to second on a pitch that ricocheted hard off the backstop, setting up a full count for Nunez.
“The only thing I wish I could take back was that one that I slipped on,” Nathan said. “If I make a better pitch there, at least set something up better for the 3-2 count, but I don’t think he’s going to chase a 30-footer after I slipped and was laying on the ground.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington said: “That was weird the way it happened.”
Interestingly enough, after Nunez tripled to deep center, he stumbled on his way to third and practically flopped into the bag.
“I was looking at the ball and thought inside-the-park (homer),” Nunez said. “And then I went around second base, I tried too much and went down.”
Nunez scored on a single to left by Lillibridge, whose fielding error at third base in the sixth led to four unearned runs for the Rangers.
“It is what it is, but I was able to make up for it and it was a big win and I’m just excited to be able to help,” said Lillibridge, who was almost lifted for a pinch-hitter.
“The (wild pitch) kind of changed everything. If he gets a hit right there, it’s going to tie it up and we’re going to need somebody out there at third base to play defense,” Lillibridge said, describing the thoughts in his mind. “So I started creeping back over, stopped pouting after a couple of pitches and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a chance to be able to hit again, get a big hit and score the run from third base and get a chance to maybe redeem myself.’”
Lillibridge, who played at Jackson High School and the University of Washington, was recalled by the Yankees on July 19 Class AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. The Yankees acquired Lillibridge in a trade with the Cubs on June 21.
Mariano Rivera, who set up Nathan’s save in the All-Star game a week earlier, struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 32nd save this season, extending his career record to 640.
Joba Chamberlain (2-0), the fourth Yankees pitcher, got help in his perfect eighth when center fielder Brett Gardner made two incredible catches — one against the wall before his running, leaping grab to end the inning.
Nathan had converted 15 consecutive save chances, and 31 of 32 this season. Texas had been 51-0 when leading after eight innings.
“In that case you have to give the Yankees credit for fighting the way they did,” Washington said. “Anytime we put Joe out there, we figure the game is over. … We just didn’t get that one shut down.”
Texas led 4-3 after Mitch Moreland greeted reliever Boone Logan with a two-run homer, his 14th.
Alexi Ogando returned from the disabled list to start for Texas, and allowed three runs in five innings. Ross Wolf, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts each had 1-2-3 innings, stretching the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 25 1-3 consecutive innings before a rare blown save by Nathan.
Nelson Cruz reached on an error by Lillibridge in the sixth before an RBI double by Adrian Beltre, who scored on a single by Elvis Andrus that chased Phil Hughes.
Hughes struck out one and walked three while giving up three runs, all unearned, in 5 2-3 innings.
New York had gone more than two games without an extra-base hit before Melky Mesa and Austin Romine — the Nos. 8-9 hitters — had consecutive doubles for a 1-0 lead before an RBI infield single by Ichiro Suzuki.
Wells hit a leadoff double in the fourth and scored on a fielder’s choice when second baseman Ian Kinsler fielded Lillibridge’s grounder and short-hopped a throw to the plate.
NOTES: Before the game, Rivera visited about 20 workers at Rangers Ballpark, thanking them as he has in his final visit to every stadium in his final season. He met with members of the complex grounds crew, a mechanic and several workers who keep the televisions in the stadium working. The Rangers will honor Rivera in a pregame ceremony on the field Thursday. … Rangers opening day starter Matt Harrison, on the disabled list since early April because of lower back surgery, is scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday. … Yankees OF Curtis Granderson (broken pinkie) and INF Jayson Nix (hamstring) could begin minor league rehab assignments this week. Both ran the bases in a simulated game at the team’s complex in Tampa, Fla. … Texas surpassed 2 million in season attendance in its 51st home game.