The Yankees' catcher thought his seventh-inning shot to left field was a home run from the moment his bat connected with the ball. He thought he had sparked a Yankees rally and had cut the deficit to 6-2. Perhaps most painful to Cervelli after the fact, he thought he had homered off his countryman and idol, Mets left-hander Johan Santana.
But for Cervelli and the Yankees on Sunday, it wasn't to be. Cervelli's deep drive hit off the orange line at the very top of the wall down Citi Field's left-field line -- the part of the wall that, more or less inexplicably, is a few feet higher than it is a few inches over to the right. The ball stayed in play, and although Nick Swisher scored all the way from first, Cervelli was held to a single.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi ran out immediately to argue the play. Girardi said that third-base coach Rob Thomson had told the manager that he had heard the sound of metal and thought the ball had hit the base of the foul pole in left -- also colored orange. After a replay review, the umpires confirmed the call on the field of a single.
"The ball hit the line and stayed in the ballpark," crew chief Derryl Cousins said. "That's why we were out there so quick -- it wasn't worth looking at a second time."
After the game, Cervelli couldn't believe that he had come so close to homering off Santana and that one of the hardest workers on the Yankees was unable to run out what he -- and his manager -- knew should have been a double.
"I made a mistake," Cervelli said. "I run hard all the time; that's what I do all the time. I don't know what happened. That was a mistake."
For his part, Swisher said he didn't see the play at the wall since he was running hard with his head down the whole time. That was evidenced by the fact he scored from first on the single -- something he quickly said he had "never" done before.
Cervelli grew up in Venezuela and called Santana "one of [his] idols" and "one of the best people [he's] ever met." And after the game, the chance to claim a home run off his country's winningest Major League pitcher seemed to linger in Cervelli's mind the most.
"I think Citi Field is a little big for me," Cervelli said wistfully. "Next time, when it's up in the air, I've got to run like I always do."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.