Aaron Judge ended Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays in about as dramatic fashion as possible. Just days earlier, Gleyber Torres added a memorable walk-off dinger of his own. This run of walk-off bombs got me thinking: which are the most significant and important regular-season walk-off homers since the turn of the millennium for the Yankees?
There have been quite a few of those game-deciding blasts since 2000s in the regular season, but if we had to choose just five, it would be these:
5) September 1, 2019: Mike Ford
The 2019 Yankees were good, perhaps the best team since the 2017 group. That team won 103 games, one of them being an impressive walk-off against the Oakland Athletics and closer Liam Hendriks.
The Yankees trailed by one in the ninth, but tied it all up when Brett Gardner took a 98-mph offering from Hendriks down the right-field line for a home run. The score was knotted at four runs apiece in the ninth frame, when the first baseman Ford, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter, went yard to end the game. It was Ford’s finest hour as a Yankee, one that fans surely remember.
4) May 17, 2002: Jason Giambi
You may remember the 2002 Yankees by their division series loss against the Anaheim Angels, but you would be amazed to know that team had the Yankees’ best record in the decade, at 103-58 (yes, even better than the 2009 Yankees that won the title, who were 103-59). It was a juggernaut that unfortunately happened to lose three games against the squad that eventually won the World Series.
On May 17th, slugger Jason Giambi turned a 9-12 deficit into a 13-12 win with just one swing against the Minnesota Twins. In the 14th inning! This game was a hell of a marathon, and Peter did an excellent job of recounting it as part of our Top 25 Games of the Past 25 Years series. You don’t see game-winning grand slams very often, and you also don’t typically see them deep into extras during a rainstorm.
3) May 17, 2010: Marcus Thames
The recent Yankees hitting coach also had, as you probably remember, multiple stints with the team as an outfielder. He was a good part-time player in 2010 (126 wRC+) and had perhaps his biggest home run against the Red Sox in May.
With the score tied at nine and two outs in the ninth inning, Thames drilled a two-run home run that ended the game against Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Yankees would go on to finish as the Wild Card team in the American League and finished two games shy of the World Series, while Boston wouldn’t qualify for the playoffs.
2) August 7, 2009: Alex Rodriguez
The Yankees’ last World Series-winning season included a whopping eight walk-off home runs, if we include Mark Teixeira’s postseason blast against Minnesota. Talk about a resilient bunch. But one against the Red Sox in a 15-inning marathon gets a mention on this list.
With two outs and a runner on base, Alex Rodriguez socked a game-winning dinger against Junichi Tazawa (who was making his MLB debut!) on August 8th to give the Yankees just their second win of 2009 against their archrivals. That homer ended a streak of 72 at-bats without a long ball for A-Rod.
1) September 30, 2004: Bernie Williams
The people who grew up watching the late-1990s and 2000s Yankees have fond memories of Bernie Williams. The guy was a gamer, and one of the most complete hitters of the dynasty. He was clutch, too, and had his fair share of important hits and home runs.
On September 30th of the 2004 season the Yankees clinched their seventh consecutive AL East crown thanks to a walk-off blast by Bernie against Aaron Fultz of the Minnesota Twins. The game was tied at four runs apiece in the bottom of the ninth, but Williams ended things with his two-run dinger.