Bubba's walk-off blast lifts Yankees

Bubba's walk-off blast lifts Yankees

NEW YORK -- When Bubba Crosby stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, everyone on the Yankees' bench was hoping for the young outfielder to work his way on base, giving the big bats a chance to drive home the game-winner.

"I thought a lot about bunting -- trying to get on base and letting the big guys do their thing," Crosby said.

Two pitches later, the "big guys" were waiting at home plate for Crosby, who lifted the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the Orioles on Monday night with an unlikely walk-off home run.

"The last thing you're thinking is home run," said Alex Rodriguez. "Nothing against Bubba, but you're hoping for a walk, hit by pitch, base hit, bunt single -- then he hits the ball like Darryl Strawberry."

Crosby, who started in right field in place of the banged-up Gary Sheffield for the fifth time in the last 10 games, entered the at-bat with just one extra-base hit in 66 at-bats this season. So when Eric DuBose's 1-0 breaking ball landed in the right-field bleachers, the stunned crowd of 51,521 didn't know what to do with itself.

"It's every player's dream, especially to do it here in New York with the Yankee fans; you couldn't ask for a more picture-perfect moment," Crosby said. "I've never hit a walk-off home run ever in my whole life, even in Little League. To do it at Yankee Stadium this time of the year -- when it counts -- it just doesn't get any better than that.

"To be honest, to be a role guy, you'd rather do it for the New York Yankees than anybody else," he added. "Coming off the bench for defense, pinch-running, if you're going to do that, this is a good team to do it for. As far as thinking something like this was going to happen, I thought those days were over with."

The home run gave the Yankees their seventh win in the last eight games, moving them just a half-game behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East, as Boston fell to Tampa Bay on Monday night. New York remains 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the Wild Card race.

"If we're going to go out there and eliminate games off the schedule, we have to make sure they're on the 'W' side," said manager Joe Torre. "Tonight was very important, after the loss yesterday, to get the momentum back."

Chien-Ming Wang gave the Yankees a solid effort, allowing two runs in the first three innings before tossing up five consecutive zeros to end his eight-inning outing. Wang allowed seven hits and one walk, striking out four in the no-decision.

Mariano Rivera earned the win with a scoreless ninth, improving to 7-4.

Erik Bedard held the Yankees scoreless through the first four innings, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the third when he got Sheffield to ground into a double play.

New York finally got to Bedard in the fifth, loading the bases on consecutive singles by Robinson Cano, Crosby and Derek Jeter to start the inning. A-Rod singled in Cano, and one out later, Sheffield tied the game with an RBI groundout.

"I was so elated, not only for the team, but for this kid who we've shuttled back and forth to Columbus I don't know how many times over the last two years ... I have a lot of confidence in him."
-- Joe Torre, on Bubba Crosby

"Bedard pitched his tail off," Torre said. "We had opportunities with the right guys up in the batting order, and we didn't come away with much."

Wang settled in after the early innings, using his sinker to pound the strike zone. The rookie limited Baltimore to just three singles from the fourth through the eighth, as the Orioles struggled to get the ball out of the infield. Wang even took care of business in the field, successfully fielding nine ground balls.

"This is obviously Wang's best since he's been back," Torre said. "He showed us what he showed us in the first half."

The Yankees threatened a couple of times, putting the go-ahead run at second base in both the sixth and seventh innings. But Bedard and the Baltimore bullpen got the job done, stranding the runner each time to send the 2-2 game into the eighth.

Rivera retired the side in order in the ninth, setting up the dramatic ending. Crosby, who had two homers in his big league career -- both coming in a two-day span last April -- went to the plate looking for a breaking ball, taking some advice from Jorge Posada.

After taking the first pitch for a ball, Crosby sat on that breaking ball. When it arrived, he drilled it into the bleachers, setting off a wild celebration.

"I pretty much felt it when I hit it. I don't think I could have hit it any better," Crosby said. "It's like an out-of-body experience. I tried to think about running a little slower to take it all in, but all I could think about was getting mauled at home plate."

He wasn't disappointed. All of his teammates, as well as his manager and coaches, waited at home as he rounded the bases.

"I was so elated, not only for the team, but for this kid who we've shuttled back and forth to Columbus I don't know how many times over the last two years," Torre said. "I think he probably waited for the tap on the shoulder here the last couple of times we made moves, but he never got it. I have a lot of confidence in him."

That confidence paid off on Monday night.

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.