DENVER (AP) — Everyone knows Vernon Wells can hit and play the outfield. Turns out, he has some range at third base, too.
That’s right, third base.
Wells’ reward for scoring the go-ahead run in the ninth was taking the field at the hot corner – a position he’s never played before. He looked rather sharp, too, on his one and only grounder.
”That was one of the cooler moments of my career,” Wells said.
While his glove work preserved the win, pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch’s hustle on an infield single with the bases loaded allowed Wells to score the winning run as the New York Yankees beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Wednesday night.
”Once Boesch was called safe, I was like a little kid just jumping around,” said Wells, who also added a two-run homer in the first. ”Then I quickly stopped when I realized, ‘OK, I’ve got to go play third.’ I’ve got to get my head together.”
With the Yankees’ bench depleted, manager Joe Girardi had to get creative in the field for the ninth. So much so that Wells wound up jogging to third – with his outfield glove. But he fielded Carlos Gonzalez’s slow hopper for the second out.
Mariano Rivera enticed Wilin Rosario to fly out to end the game as baseball’s best closer earned his 12th save in 12 chances.
”Taking groundballs while Mo was warming up – throwing the ball around and I’m throwing the ball to Mariano Rivera?” Wells said. ”It’s a cool feeling.”
Wells began the ninth with a single off Rafael Betancourt (1-1) and was credited with a stolen base when shortstop Jonathan Herrera dropped the ball while applying the tag. Lyle Overbay drew a walk and Ichiro Suzuki sacrificed them over.
After an intentional walk to Jayson Nix to load the bases, pinch-hitter Travis Hafner struck out. Boesch sent a two-out sharp grounder to Nolan Arenado, who briefly looked at second before double-clutching and then throwing across the diamond. First baseman Todd Helton thought Boesch was out and began heading to the dugout, but first base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled him safe.
”Felt like he was out,” Helton said. ”I don’t know what the replay showed. It was close. Yeah, it’s a tough call. It’s a shame the game had to be decided on a call like that.”
Manager Walt Weiss briefly argued with Cuzzi before walking off the field.
”Said it was really close but thought he beat it,” Weiss said of the conversation.
Boesch will second that opinion. After all, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound outfielder is faster than he looks.
”I thought I was safe,” Boesch said. ”But I kind of lost my balance trying to run as hard as I could and I had that really pretty crash landing.
”I don’t think he (Arenado) has been in the league very long so maybe … I think he thought he had more time.”
Arenado realizes that tiny bobble cost him.
”Obviously, if I get the ball out a little quicker, he’s out,” the rookie said.
The wind blowing in on a cool and damp night meant very little hitting for either team, just 10 combined hits. The only early offense was a pair of two-run homers, one by Wells on a 94 mph fastball from Juan Nicasio in the first and the other a drive off the bat of Helton in the second.
David Robertson (2-0) worked his way out of a one-out situation in the eighth when he plunked pinch-hitter Troy Tulowitzki, who was then replaced by Eric Young Jr. Young then stole second, but Herrera lined out to second and Dexter Fowler grounded out to first.
Chris Nelson’s first hit with the Yankees came in the stadium that’s quite familiar for him. Nelson, who was traded from Colorado to New York on May 1, snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a single in the seventh that Fowler misplayed and allowed Nelson to hustle to third.
David Phelps was solid except the one hiccup to Helton. He lasted six innings and allowed three hits.
Like Phelps, Nicasio settled into a groove after encountering early trouble. He allowed two hits in the first – including Wells’ seventh homer of the season – but only gave up a walk to the next 15 hitters he faced.
Nicasio went five innings in the no-decision, striking out five and walking one.
Girardi employed a different type of strategy on Wednesday, inserting pitcher David Phelps into the No. 8 spot in the batting order and moving catcher Austin Romine to ninth. Girardi borrowed the idea from former St. Louis skipper from Tony La Russa.
Girardi’s tactic was a way to gain more favorable matchups deeper in the game against the Rockies’ bullpen. It’s the first time a Yankees pitcher has batted in a spot other than ninth since interleague play began in 1997, according to STATS.
The last Yankees pitcher to bat eighth was Don Larsen in 1957, STATS said.
Weiss decided to hold out Tulowitzki for a second straight game. Not so much because of soreness in his legs as the soggy weather. Weiss didn’t want to take a risk with his All-Star slugger.
NOTES: It’s the first time New York has won in the Mile High City since June, 19, 2002. … Before the game, the Rockies presented Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with a $5,000 check for his foundation. … The Yankees will send LHP CC Sabathia (4-3) to the mound Thursday in the series finale. The Rockies will counter with LHP Jeff Francis (1-2).