The Field of Dreams Game last week was about the perfect example of the Yankees getting counterpunched. After going into the ninth inning trailing by three runs and down to their last couple outs, they came all the way back, took the lead, and were then on the verge of a win.
Alas, Zack Britton couldn’t hold the lead and allowed a walk-off home run to Tim Anderson, as the White Sox won 8-7. After landing a possible final blow, the other team got off the canvas and themselves landed a knockout punch. It was not fun.
However, let’s flip that around. There are times from history when the Yankees came out on top of one of those wild ninth innings. Let’s look back on some of them.
Note: If your favorite comeback game is not on the list, it’s because this isn’t just a list of ninth-inning comebacks. This is specifically a focus on games where the Yankees were on the verge of winning, blew a lead and were about to lose, and then still won. Please consider that before asking why “Game X” isn’t on the list.
The Yankees went into the sixth inning of this one trailing 3-0 after recording just two hits and two walks in the first five frames. However, over the course of the next three innings, they racked up five runs on seven hits with Cleveland chipping in with an error that allowed the go ahead run to score.
Pitcher Johnny Murphy had come in for the eighth and was sent out for the ninth, trying to finish off a win. Things went very quickly wrong for the then-bullpen ace though, as the first four batters of the inning all reached thanks to two singles, an error, and a triple that put Cleveland back in front. Murphy was removed from the game, but by the time the dust settled, the Yankees trailed 7-5.
Backup catcher Joe Glenn gave the Yankees a lifeline when he led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but the next two hitters recorded outs, leaving the Yankees on the verge of a loss. Red Rolfe and Tommy Henrich then kept the game alive with singles, with the second scoring a run and bringing Joe DiMaggio to the plate. While he wasn’t yet at his MVP and hitting streak peak, there are few players you would want up as much as DiMaggio in that situation, and he delivered. DiMaggio tripled to score two runs, completing a wild 8-7 win.
After blowing a one-run lead in the top of the eight, Joe Gordon seemingly restored order in the bottom of the eighth with a home run that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead over the Senators on this day.
Despite losing the lead in the eighth inning, pitcher Tiny Bonham had been otherwise good and was sent back out for the ninth. He walked Washington’s leadoff man, but then got two outs and was on the verge of sealing a win. Instead, the Senators added three straight hits, scoring two runs to take the lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees got some luck as after a walk, the Senators botched a sac bunt attempt, allowing the Yankees to put two on with nobody out. Even more fortune came their way when a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Washington brought in pitcher Owen Scheetz, who got the first out of the inning, but then issued a walk to load the bases. Roy Weatherly came to the plate and then picked up the only hit of the inning, a two-RBI single that won the game for the Yankees.
Almost 44 years to the day before the White Sox did it to the Yankees, the reverse happened in a game in the Bronx.
The Yankees seemingly had no reason to expect a loss in this one, as they went into the top of the ninth up 9-4 with Ron Guidry, on the verge of breakout season the next year, going for a complete game. However, Guidry started the inning by allowing a single, home run, and a single, cutting the lead to three runs. No issue though, as the Yankees went to Sparky Lyle, who was in the midst of his Cy Young-winning season.
Lyle seemingly got the ship righted by getting a foul out in his first at bat. Instead the next at bats went double, single, sac fly, single, knocking Lyle out of the game and getting Chicago within a run. Ken Clay came in walked the first batter he faced, and then allowed a two-RBI single to Oscar Gamble. It finished as a six-run inning as the Yankees surrendered a lead after they had a 99-percent win probability.
In the ninth, Thurman Munson drew a leadoff walk and moved over to second on a Lou Pinella bunt. The sacrifice wouldn’t end up being necessary, as Chris Chambliss homered, giving the Yankees an 11-10 win. The win probability was back up to 100 percent, but it was quite the ride to get there.
This one doesn’t exactly fit the criteria used for the rest, but in an effort to not get yelled at, I’m throwing this one in.
Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza combined to allow two runs in the eighth, putting the Yankees in a 3-1 hole with just six outs left. The three outs in the eighth inning against closer Byung-Hyun Kim all ended in strikeouts, leaving the Yankees three outs away from going down 3-1 in the series. After a one-out Paul O’Neill single, Bernie Williams struck out, leaving the game up to Tino Martinez. The first baseman came through, hitting a two-run home run off Kim, tying the game. In the 10th, Derek Jeter famously became “Mr. November” with a walk-off home run.
The Yankees came back in semi-similar fashion the next night, taking a lead in the series. It’s a shame the World Series was cancelled after those two games, however.
There are undoubtedly others no mentioned, so let us know your favorite Yankees’ “counterpunch” wins.