When you’re watching a baseball game and one of the team allows nine runs in the first two innings, you usually don’t expect that to turn into a competitive game.
For one, that’s going to knock out the starting pitcher 99.9 percent of the time. Plus, when a team’s down that big, they’re also not going to turn to turn to their important relievers. You’ll probably get the long man and then some back of the bullpen arms, with teams not looking to waste pitchers they might need in a closer game the next day. Worse pitchers are also less likely to keep the other team off the board, lessening the chance of a comeback. Even beyond the pitching implications, it also can’t feel good for the offense to suddenly be down big before you’ve even had much of a chance at the plate.
However, every once in a while, a team manages to claw their way back into the game and pull off an improbable win. In one 2006 game, the Yankees did just that, though things got very, very wild along the way.
Date of Game: May 16, 2006
Final Score: Yankees 14, Rangers 13
Game MVP: Jorge Posada
With the Yankees hosting the Rangers in the Bronx on May 16, 2006, they gave the ball to Shawn Chacon. After his very nice 2005 season, Chacon seemed to be following it with a solid 2006. While he had struggled in his first couple outings in ‘06, even going to the bullpen for a few games, he had put up a 1.48 ERA in 24.1 innings over his previous four starts.
However, dreams of an effective 2006 campaign from Chacon pretty much died when he took the mound against the Rangers. After getting the first two outs of the game in the top of the first, Chacon allowed three consecutive singles. The third, combined with a Johnny Damon throwing error, brought home two runs to give Texas an early lead. Chacon got out of the inning after that, but the worst of it was still yet to come for him.
In the second inning, got the first out of the inning after issuing a lead off walk. That would be the final out he recorded that day. After a hit by pitch, another walk, and a couple hits, Chacon was removed, with the Yankees now behind 6-0. Fellow 2005 pitching hero Aaron Small replaced him, but allowed a three-run homer to the first batter he faced, Hank Blalock. The Yankees were now down 9-0, and it looked like a long night was ahead of them. It was, just not in the way you might’ve expected.
The Yankees got one run back in the bottom of the second on a Miguel Cairo RBI single, but Texas got that run back in the top of the third. The long trek back for the Yankees began in earnest in the third and fourth, scoring two runs in each inning. Jorge Posada was responsible for one of the RBI in each of those innings, kicking off what would be a very memorable performance from him.
Meanwhile, Small settled down after his disastrous first batter faced and ended up giving the Yankees 4.1 innings. After his good 2005, it became Small’s final super notable performance with the Yankees, as he struggled over the next month and would end up making his final MLB appearance on June 16th. However on May 16th, he kept them in it by the time the sixth inning rolled around, when action really began to pick up.
Ron Villone replaced Small to finish the sixth, and he did so ... sort of. Facing Villone, Blalock went the other way on a pitch that dropped in and gave left fielder Melky Cabrera some trouble. Mark Teixeira, who was on first after a single, was waved all the way around from first as Cabrera got the ball in. The ball reached home first and future Yankee Teixeira tried to bowl over his soon-to-be teammate Posada. The Yankees’ catcher hung on to the ball, and Teixeira was out to end the inning:
It was Posada’s third good contribution of the day, and it ended up being a very important one when the dust finally settled.
The Yankees started off the bottom of the sixth with a single and a walk, bringing Derek Jeter to the plate. The Yankees’ shortstop homered and just like that, the Yankees were within two runs. Things didn’t stop there. After walks by Alex Rodriguez and Posada, Bernie Williams drove home a run with a double. Two batters after that, Cairo singled home another two runs. After being down to a 2-percent Win Expectancy at various points of the first couple innings, the Yankees were suddenly leading the game.
The lead did not last long, however. In the most 2006ish Yankees’ move of all time, Joe Torre brought in Scott Proctor to pitch the seventh. Proctor couldn’t hang onto the lead, allowing a two-run homer to Brad Wilkerson. However, again, the Yankees answered back. In the bottom of the seventh, Posada again played a role, hitting a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
In the eighth inning, the game very briefly settled down, with both frames going 1-2-3. Then the Yankees made the right move brining in Mariano Rivera in a tie game at home. It’s was fairly unusual for that move not to work, but that day would be one of those times. An RBI double from Rod Barajas gave the Rangers the lead once again. However, this game wouldn’t make this list if there wasn’t one last sting in the tail.
Damon led off the ninth for the Yankees. On the second pitch of his at-bat, he hit one hard down the first base line. While Teixeira was well known for his defensive prowess at first base, this particular grounder ate him up. The ball took a hop over his glove and into foul territory, allowing Damon to reach base with the heart of the order due up.
Next up was Jeter, whose ground out moved Damon to second. A-Rod came up after that, and while he made decent contact in a pitch, the ball eventually died in center field for a fly out, leaving the game up to Posada. As you can gather by all of his mentions in this article, he had a busy day already, but he wasn’t done yet. After working the count to 3-1, the Yankees’ catcher did this:
Posada’s two-run home run ended the game, giving the Yankees a wild 14-13 win — one in which they trailed by nine and were down to their final out. After the game, Posada said “I was just hoping it was out of the park so we wouldn’t have to keep playing. I didn’t want to play anymore. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone.”
One look at the the Win Expectancy Graph shows how wild things got, and how much of the game the Yankees spent with little chance of winning.
In addition to the walk-off video above, some nice soul has uploaded a 20-minute video of the key highlights of this game, if you’d like to relive this crazy game.