The Yankees rolled into the final week of August 2011 locked neck and neck with the Red Sox for the AL East lead. They welcomed the Athletics to the Bronx two nights prior, but losses in the first two games of the series saw them fall a game behind their bitter rivals in the division. New York needed a win in the final game not only to avoid the sweep, but to keep pace in the fierce battle for first place.
Date of Game: August 25, 2011
Final Score: Yankees 22, Athletics 9
Game MVP(s): Russell Martin, Robinson Canó, Curtis Granderson
It was a beautiful late summer afternoon as Phil Hughes took the Yankee Stadium mound, tasked with stopping the bleeding of the previous two dropped games. The Yankees’ former top prospect was in the midst of a miserable, injury-plagued campaign. He entered the contest 4-4 with a 5.75 ERA, having missed almost three months with shoulder inflammation that had robbed his fastball of roughly three mph of velocity. Unfortunately for Hughes, that day’s outing would unfold in the same fashion as too many of his previous starts.
He surrendered a leadoff single to Jemile Weeks, who stole second and then advanced to third on a Coco Crisp sac bunt. Old friend Hideki Matsui drove Weeks home with a sac fly to center to spot the Athletics an early 1-0 lead. The Yankees answered right back against Rich Harden in the bottom half, with Derek Jeter leading off with a triple before scoring on a Mark Teixeira RBI groundout.
The 1-1 tie lasted only an out into the next inning before David DeJesus lined a triple to right and scored on a Cliff Pennington double into the right-center gap. Just as they did in the first, the Yankees threatened to answer back, though their efforts this time around would fall short. They loaded the bases on three singles by Robinson Canó, Russell Martin, and Eduardo Núñez, but left all three ducks on the pond thanks to a Brett Gardner pop out and Jeter groundout.
Things really got ugly for Hughes in the third, allowing Weeks and Matsui to reach on a pair of singles. Josh Willingham drove Weeks in with a single to left, and DeJesus brought Matsui in with a single to right, knocking Hughes from the game with runners on the corners. Cory Wade came in and promptly surrendered a three-run home run on the first pitch he threw to Pennington to put the A’s up 7-1 and add two more runs to Hughes’ final line of 2.2 innings with six earned runs.
At this point, the game felt all but lost, and a trickle of fans could be seen leaving their seats for an early exit. The Yankees clawed a run back in the fourth on a Martin solo shot down the right field line, but still trailed 7-2 as the game reached its midpoint.
Their fortunes would change in the fifth, as the lineup turned over and Harden had to face the vaunted third time through. Jeter led off with a single, followed by a Curtis Granderson walk and Alex Rodriguez single to load the bases. Enter Canó, who deposited a 1-0 Harden cement mixer slider 10 rows deep into the seats in right to reduce the arrears to 7-6 and inject life into the listless Bronx crowd. The Yankees would actually load the bases again that inning, but just as they did in the second, Gardner popped out and Jeter grounded out to kill the rally.
Those wasted chances proved immaterial, as in the very next inning the Yankees again loaded the bases via a Granderson HBP, A-Rod walk, and Nick Swisher IBB. Up stepped Martin, who stayed on an elevated 1-1 Fautino De Los Santos fastball out over the plate lining an opposite field wall-scraping grand slam over the short porch for his second long ball of the game, giving the Yankees their first lead, 10-7.
The momentum was clearly in the home team’s corner at this point, and the score only snowballed from there. They put up a six-spot in the seventh, batting around and then some. The inning started with Jordan Norberto walking the bases loaded, followed by Canó, Martin, Núñez, Jeter, Granderson, and Teixeira each contributing an RBI in the frame.
Granderson provided the pièce de résistance in the eighth. Francisco Cervelli led off with a single, followed by a Martin double and Núñez walk to once again load the bases. Gardner singled Cervelli home, allowing the runners to go station to station and bringing Granderson to the dish. He golfed a 1-2 Bruce Billings fastball below the zone into the Yankees’ bullpen for their third and final grand slam of the afternoon and his 36th dinger of the year. Even Andruw Jones got in on the act, going back-to-back with Granderson to make it 22-8 Yankees.
The Athletics scrounged consolation runs in the seventh and ninth, leaving us with a final score of 22-9 Yankees. This occasion marked the only time in MLB history that team has hit three grand slams in one game. The crazy part is the Yankees could have had more, loading the bases seven separate times during the contest. This game certainly ranks at or near the top of the best Yankees performances of the last 25 years, and it’s safe to say we will not see another offensive outburst like this any time soon.