The most popular guy in New York this morning is a guy named Marcus Thames:
Marcus Thames has spent much of his career on the bench, and that is where he would have been, should have been, in the ninth inning Monday night. If Nick Swisher were healthy, he would have been playing right field. If Jorge Posada were able to pinch-hit, no doubt he would have ambled to the plate with the score tied and two outs.
“It was my turn to get up to the plate,” Thames said.
And when he got up there, Thames hit a two-run homer that capped a four-run outburst off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon as the Yankees finally outlasted the Red Sox in an 11-9 victory. Thames sprinted to first base with unbridled joy, watching the left-field bleachers erupt after swallowing his first career game-winning home run. Alex Rodriguez, whose two-run homer earlier in the inning tied the score, leaped out of the dugout.
A shaving-cream pie to Thames’s face, the Yankees’ ritual for a win in their final at-bat, came soon after. He received his first pie in 2002, from Alberto Castillo, when he clobbered his first major league pitch, which came from Randy Johnson, for a home run. This one, he said, “is up there.”
Not just because it came against the Red Sox, who were stunned at how violently the game unraveled. “When you lose late, it kind of sits with you more,” Boston Manager Terry Francona said. Or because it perpetuated the Yankees’ superiority over Papelbon, who has allowed three homers this season, all against the Yankees. Or because it was their first game-ending hit at Yankee Stadium, a rarity after their major-league leading 15 in 2009.
Maybe this pie tasted sweeter because the Yankees, after blowing a five-run first-inning lead, won at all. In effect, they were playing with a 20-man roster Monday. Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera were both unavailable, and the Yankees certainly dealt with those consequences. So was Sergio Mitre, who started Sunday. Swisher (sore left biceps) and Posada (sore right foot) could not play, either.
Just as Thames capitalized on circumstance, so did Javier Vazquez, who stranded two inherited runners in the ninth inning when he struck out Kevin Youkilis to keep the score at 9-7. After being skipped in the rotation once more, Vazquez emerged as the winning pitcher.
“I really don’t know what I’m doing out there as a reliever but I just tried to make good pitches,” said Vazquez, who made four of them. That limited activity kept him on track to pitch Friday night against the Mets at Citi Field.
It was a sweet, sweet victory: