In the minds of most Yankees fans, memories of 2012 boil down to three events: the good (Raúl Ibañez’s ALDS heroics), the bad (Mariano Rivera crumbling to the ground in Kansas City), and the ugly (the lineup’s complete and total ALCS meltdown against the Tigers, which also featured another icon’s gruesome injury). The Yankees had the best record in the American League that year, winning 95 games en route to their second straight division title, and it really felt like they had a chance to do something special. Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t turn into reality.
Of those 95 wins, though, there is perhaps none better than their ninth win of the season. I know, I know — you don’t want to peak too early, but by god this comeback still feels like it was ripped from the pages of a storybook. Filled with late-game heroics, bullpen implosions, and one of the worst performances by a bullpen in memory, this game was one for the ages.
Date of Game: April 21, 2012
Final Score: Yankees 15, Red Sox 9
Game MVP: Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher
The game started with Freddy Garcia and Felix Doubront, two names I haven’t thought of in ages, taking the mound for the Yankees and Red Sox respectively. After a clean top of the first, Boston struck immediately for two runs after back-to-back doubles from Adrián González and David Ortiz.
It was more of the same in the second inning, when a series of singles from Mike Avilés and Dustin Pedroia, along with a sac fly off the bat of Ryan Sweeney, cashed in three more runs for the Red Sox. Pedroia’s run-scoring single chased Garcia from the game after just 1.2 innings pitched. He was relieved by Clay Rapada (fun fact: he was never charged with a loss in his career), who was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.
After yet another clean inning for Doubront, the Red Sox struck for two more runs in the bottom half of the third. After Ortiz singled off Rapada to start the frame, the lefty was replaced by David Phelps, who promptly hit Kevin Youkilis and gave up a single to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Darnell McDonald hit a sac fly to cash in Ortiz from third and Avilés hit another RBI single to score Youkilis, but Phelps was able to bear down to prevent another huge inning.
The fourth inning was wholly uneventful, but Boston struck once again in the bottom of the fifth. After a clean top half of the frame, Saltalamacchia led off the fifth with a double and Cody Ross followed that up with a two-run shot off of Phelps to give the Red Sox a 9-0 lead. Phelps ended the inning with three straight flyball outs.
Doubront started the top of the sixth off with back-to-back strikeouts of Robinson Canó and Alex Rodriguez before he gave up a solo shot to Mark Teixeira to make it a 9-1 score. Ho-hum, right? Curtis Granderson popped out to end the top of the sixth, and the Red Sox went down relatively quietly in the bottom half of the inning.
With a huge lead and an increasing pitch count for Doubront, Boston skipper Bobby Valentine made the move to the bullpen and brought in Vicente Padilla, Teixeira’s arch-nemesis, for mop-up duty. Padilla promptly struck Andruw Jones out to start the seventh, and then all hell broke loose. Russell Martin and Eduardo Núñez got the rally started with back-to-back singles, followed by a four-pitch walk to Derek Jeter.
Then, on the first pitch he saw, Nick Swisher took advantage of the Green Monster and hit a flyball that just so happened to carry all the way out for a grand slam. In the blink of an eye, the Red Sox lead was cut to 9-5.
Five pitches later, Canó crushed a double off the Monster and Padilla’s day was done, as he was replaced by Matt Albers. After an E6 allowed A-Rod to reach base, Teixeira cleared the Green Monster for the second time in the inning, cashing in three more runs. After throwing just seven pitches, Albers’ night was done as Franklin Morales entered in relief and got the final two outs of the inning. Rafael Soriano entered in the bottom of the seventh and, despite giving up a leadoff double to Salty, got the next three batters out in order.
As if the top of the seventh wasn’t dramatic enough, the top of the eighth turned out to be the stuff of legend. Morales was yanked after yielding a leadoff single to Núñez and former Yankee Alfredo Aceves replaced him. He promptly walked Jeter before giving up a two-run double to Swisher, who was just as pumped up as every Yankees fan watching this thrilling comeback:
After intentionally walking Canó and then unintentionally walking A-Rod, Teixeira struck for another two-run double. Morales’ final act in the game was intentionally walking Granderson before being replaced by Justin Thomas. After getting Ibañez to hit into a line-drive double play, Martin struck for the inning’s third two-run double. Another single from Núñez led to an appearance from Junichi Tazawa. Núñez promptly stole second and then Jeter singled home Martin. Tazawa was finally able to stop the bleeding by getting Swisher to pop up to end the inning. 84 pitches across two innings later, the Yankees found themselves leading 15-9.
Boone Logan and Cody Eppley pitched clean eighth and ninth innings, and the Yankees offense didn’t strike for anymore runs, so all that drama caused by the offensive explosion across the seventh and eighth innings ultimately led to a kind of anticlimactic ending. It did, however, lead to one of my favourite win probability charts:
The Yankees were dead to rights entering the seventh inning, and then the proverbial floodgates opened. The 2012 Yankees found themselves among the best offensive teams in baseball so it was really hard to count them out in any game, but you’d think a 9-0 lead would be safe. Apparently not!
As mentioned at the start, 2012 is largely a season to forget for most Yankees fans because of the team’s abysmal performance in the ALCS. But games like this — and performances like those of Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher — are burnt in our collective memories for years after deserve to be remembered. And when those moments happen to come against the Red Sox in Fenway, well, it makes it just that much sweeter.
You can watch the full game here or relive the most exciting moments in the wonderful reel below.