September 20, 2005
Crosby pulls Yanks even in loss column
By Peter Botte
Bubba Crosby never expected this. Never in his baseball
life had he crushed a walk-off home run, and the seldom-
used outfielder certainly had no reason to believe he'd do
so in one of the most important games this season for the
But Crosby's game-winning blast leading off the bottom of
the ninth inning last night was perhaps the biggest hit the
$200 million Yanks have received to date. It lifted them to
an exhilarating 3-2 victory over Baltimore - and, more
importantly, within a half-game of first-place Boston in
the AL East.
"To especially do it here in New York, you couldn't ask for
a more picture-perfect moment," Crosby said several minutes
after getting mobbed by his teammates at home plate and
soaking in a curtain call from the packed Stadium crowd.
"I've never hit a walk-off ever, in my whole life, even in
Little League. To do it here at Yankee Stadium, at this
time of the year, when it counts, is an unbelievable
feeling. ... There's not much more I can say."
There wasn't much the Yanks could do about the Red Sox or
Indians last night except to wait for the rotating out-of-
town scoreboard to periodically flash updates from their
respective games in St. Petersburg and Chicago.
About 30 minutes after frolicking following Crosby's homer,
several Yankees emerged from the lounge area in their
clubhouse with broad smiles after nemesis Tampa Bay had
downed the Red Sox, 8-7, to even the AL East rivals in the
loss column at 63. The Indians later closed out the
plummeting White Sox, 7-5, to maintain a 1-1/2-game lead
over the Yanks in the wild-card race, although the Yanks
hope to make the wild card a moot point.
"No question, when you're down to a couple of handfuls of
games, certainly the percentage that one game takes on is
much bigger than what you're dealing with over 162," Joe
Torre said. "If you're going to eliminate games off the
schedule, you have to make sure they're on the winning
side. ... Tonight was very important, especially after
losing (Sunday in Toronto)."
The Yanks (86-63) backed up Torre's pregame contention that
"our record" and "our play" are more important than those
of the teams they're chasing, coming back from an early 2-0
hole for their seventh win in eight games.
In danger of losing his spot in the starting rotation when
Mike Mussina returns from a sore elbow, Chien-Ming Wang
allowed two early runs before shutting down the Orioles
through eight innings in his best performance in three
starts since returning from the disabled list.
Mariano Rivera's 1-2-3 ninth in a 2-2 game then set up
someone to be the hero in the bottom half. Torre decided
against hitting for Crosby, a strong defensive outfielder
who has played more lately with Gary Sheffield relegated to
DH duty by a thigh injury, against lefty reliever Eric
And Crosby, who'd legged out two infield singles earlier in
the game, ripped Dubose's 1-0 breaking ball into the right-field bleachers for his lone homer in 72 at-bats this
season to set off the raucous celebration.
"You're sitting there, trying to map out your strategy, and
then it's over," said Torre, who atypically joined the dog
pile at home plate. "I was just so elated, obviously for
the team, but for this kid, who we've shuffled back and
forth (to the minors) I don't know how many times the last
As a marginal prospect in the Yanks' system, Crosby long
ago mastered the art of "packing light" for his frequent
short-haul trips between the Bronx and Columbus. He also
joked that he's learned to avoid GM Brian Cashman whenever
the Yanks make changes and need to clear space on their
roster. Still, when veteran Matt Lawton was added late in
the season, Crosby figured he'd even forfeit his scant
playing time as a defensive outfield replacement.
"To be a role guy, you'd rather do it for the New York
Yankees than anybody else," he said. "But this was like an
out-of body experience. ... It's one of those things that
every kid dreams of."
Even on a team filled with the game's biggest stars.
"The last thing you're thinking there is a home run," Alex
Rodriguez said. "Nothing against Bubba, but you're really
hoping for a walk, a hit-by-pitch, base hit, bunt single.
He hits the ball like Darryl Strawberry, and you're going,
'holy (crap).' That's pretty cool. ... I'm happy for Bubba
and I'm happy for us."