The Yankees were unable to make it back to the postseason this year, but fans were still able to witness some classic games and moments throughout the regular season. Many of the most exciting wins came against divisional rivals, which made them all the more enjoyable. Everyone will have their own opinions, but these were my top five games from the 2016 season.
May 6th: Miller strikes out Ortiz; wild temper tantrum ensues
Okay, MAYBE the pitch was a tad low. Brian McCann was clearly crossed up on the pitch, and home plate umpire Ron Kulpa explained after the game that despite McCann fielding the pitch almost in the dirt, the nasty slider from Andrew Miller crossed the zone, and thus called it a strike. It came at a huge moment in the game, with David Ortiz up with the bases loaded in the ninth with one out, and the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead.
Regardless, it was incredibly enjoyable to watch Ortiz lose his mind, shouting and throwing his arms in the air, only to return to the batter’s box and have Kulpa ring him up on another filthy slider from Miller. Ortiz returned to the dugout after striking out and had some more words for Kulpa, who quickly ejected him. When the tirade was over, Miller struck out Hanley Ramirez to end the game and give the Yanks a 3-2 victory.
August 13th: Honoring the past while catching a glimpse of the future
Perhaps there’s a bit of bias since I was able to witness this game from the Stadium, but this game gave us a moment that had never happened in the history of baseball.
After celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1996 World Series team, the Baby Bombers announced their arrival in grand style. In his first major-league at-bat, Tyler Austin laced an opposite-field home run over the right field wall, with Aaron Judge waiting on deck for his first major-league at-bat. I remember turning to my brother in the stands and saying “You know Judge wants to hit one out so badly now.”
Just about two minutes later, Judge unloaded on a changeup and launched a home run of his own over the batter’s eye in center field, one of the longest in the short history of the new Yankee Stadium. The duo became the first pair of teammates to hit back-to-back home runs in their first career at-bats. The Yanks would go on to win the game 8-4 over Tampa Bay.
September 6th: Yanks escape by the skin of their teeth, and the webbing of Gardner’s glove
This game likely has my vote for best of the year. It was a wild back-and-forth affair against Toronto, all the way to the last out. Down 2-1 in the seventh, Tyler Austin drove a go-ahead two-run home run into the right center field seats. It was a nice present to himself on his 25th birthday.
The Blue Jays would battle back with two runs in the top of the eighth to regain the lead. In the bottom of the eighth, Didi Gregorius hit a game-tying triple to begin the scoring for the Yanks, and Chase Headley capped off the scoring with a two=run homer to make it 7-4 Yanks.
Dellin Betances struggled in the ninth, and had to be replaced by Blake Parker after surrendering two runs and leaving a bases loaded mess for Parker to clean up. Parker would strike out Kevin Pillar for the second out before Justin Smoak lifted a ball to left field that carried all the way to the wall, where a leaping Brett Gardner made an incredible catch while slamming against the outfield wall. The collision with the wall almost jarred the ball out of his glove, but Gardner hung on for the snowcone grab.
September 26th: “BLOWN SAVE”
In the final road game of his career, Mark Teixeira played the hero in a game where tempers flared early, mainly because of excessive whining in the Blue Jays’ corner. Luis Severino grazed the elbow pad of Josh Donalson with a fastball early in the game, which Donaldson apparently didn’t like.
In the top of the second, Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ threw behind Headley in an attempt to retaliate, only to plunk him on the next pitch. Girardi would be tossed, with more ejections to come in the bottom half of the inning, when Severino hit Smoak in the leg with a fastball, causing the dugouts and bullpens to empty. Only the Yankees suffered ejections, including Severino, pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and temporary manager Rob Thomson.
The game resumed after order was restored, and Toronto held a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth until Teixeira crushed a no-doubter to left center, taking a minute to pause and admire his moon shot from the batter’s box. Gregorius followed with a single, and Aaron Hicks crushed a two-run blast, giving the Yanks a 5-3 lead, which would grow to 7-3 by the end of the road half of the ninth.
Betances would struggle again in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with nobody out before being relieved by Tommy Layne. The southpaw saved the game for the Yanks, highlighted by a weak ground ball to the mound off the bat of Russell Martin, which Layne scooped up and dove to home plate for the force out. Gardner came up big again with a sliding grab in foul territory to retire Troy Tulowitzki and save the 7-5 win for the Yanks.
September 28th: Yanks spoil BoSox party
Boston still clinched the division on this night, but the Yanks sure helped pour some rain on their parade. The Bombers were held to one infield single the entire game heading into the bottom of the ninth, trailing 3-0. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel pitched poorly, losing the plate and walking in a run to make it 3-1.
Down to their final out, Teixeira sent a 99 mph fastball into the Yankees bullpen for a walk-off grand slam, giving the Yanks a 5-1 win. The Yanks would win again the next day, completing the sweep of their hated rivals. The Sox clinched thanks to the Orioles beating the Blue Jays, but I like to think the champagne tasted just a tad more bitter after surrendering a game-winning Tex message.
June 22nd: Castro’s first career walk-off beats Colorado
June 29th: Gregorius slugs walk-off home run to cap ninth inning comeback win over Texas
September 8th: Austin slugs walk-off home run against Tampa Bay
The other games in Matt’s post