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Falling backwards into a victory: Yankee relievers who vultured wins on bad days

The quirks of the pitching win/loss rules sometimes lead to a pitcher getting credited with a victory despite nearly costing their team a loss.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The thing about pitching wins and losses is this: Someone with a lot of wins is more likely to be a good pitcher. Someone with a lot of losses is likely to be a bad pitcher. However, the closer you get to .500, the more wonky things can get, because there are aspects of pitching wins/losses that aren’t really in a pitcher’s control.

Pitching wins and losses can get even more wonky when it comes to relievers, as evidenced by Wednesday night. Josh Donaldson’s walk-off grand slam allowed the Yankees to rally for an 8-7 win over the Rays in 10 innings. The reason they had to rally was because in the top half of the 10th, Aroldis Chapman walked a couple batters and then allowed a bases-clearing double, putting the Yankees in a three-run hole. But since he finished the inning and was still technically the Yankees’ pitcher when they then won the game, Chapman goes down as the winning pitcher. He did the most of any Yankees’ pitcher to lose the game, but the “W” goes down next to his name in the box score.

That got us thinking about some other instances of Yankees’ relievers getting credited with wins when their pitching didn’t exactly help — otherwise known as vulturing.

The most runs allowed by a Yankee reliever who got credited with a win while also pitching an inning or less is four, which came in a 2008 outing by Edwar Ramírez (of changeup fame). With the Yankees up 8-5, Ramírez was sent in to pitch the top of the eighth inning in a game against the Angels.

After striking out the first two hitters of the inning and getting a strike away from a 1-2-3 frame, Ramírez walked Reggie Willits. Chone Figgins then singled, followed by Ramírez loading the bases by walking Erick Aybar. That brought Mark Teixeira to the plate, just a few months away from him joining the Yankees in free agency. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Teixeira took Ramírez into the seats in right, giving the Angels the lead.

In the bottom half of the inning, the Yankees hit around, scoring six runs to jump back into the lead. José Veras came in for the ninth and got the job done, sealing a 14-9 win. Since Ramírez was still technically in the game when the Yankees came back, he went down as the winning pitcher.

The worst Win Probability Added by a Yankee reliever who went on to be credited with a win belongs to Dooley Womack in a 1966 game.

The Yankees went into the ninth inning against the Red Sox with a 4-2 lead, but none of Whitey Ford, Pedro Ramos, or Steve Hamilton could seal the deal. Between the three of them, they got just two outs, allowed a run, and left the bases loaded when the Yankees made yet another pitching change and brought in Womack.

Still just an out away from victory, Womack couldn’t seal the deal either, allowing a two-RBI double to Tony Conigliaro and then plating another run with a wild pitch. Womack finally got out of the inning after that, but the Yankees were now down 6-4 and down to their last three outs. However, the offense got off to a good start in the inning and didn’t waste it. Four hits and a walk later, a Joe Pepitone single gave the Yankees a 7-6 win, and got Womack a win despite a -0.707 WPA.

One of the most famous moments in recent Yankees’ history involves one of these situations. On September 25, 2014, David Robertson came in for top of the ninth with the Yankees leading the Orioles 5-2. A walk and a couple home runs later and the lead was gone, and the game was headed for the bottom of the ninth.

Now, you might not necessarily remember that part of this game, because how it was won slightly overshadows why it was tied to begin win. That’s because this was Derek Jeter’s final home game, and in the bottom of the ninth, he famously hit a walk-off single.

Robertson didn’t really deserve the win for his pitching, but in a way deserves it for facilitating that moment.

There are plenty of other good examples, so let us know your favorites.