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Yankees walking off toward history

Yankees walking off toward history

NEW YORK -- Helmets flying, bats flipping and whipped-cream pies. They've been staples of the past three finishes at Yankee Stadium, but how much more late-inning magic can the Yankees squeeze out of their new home in the Bronx?

The old Yankee Stadium always presented a great stage for heroics, but never anything like this -- at least not after The House that Ruth Built was renovated. Johnny Damon's 10th-inning home run on Sunday lifted the Yankees to their third straight walk-off victory, something the Bombers hadn't experienced since 1972.

"Walk-offs are definitely fun, but we'd definitely like to have a more relaxed game," Damon said. "We all have faith in each other here. It doesn't matter who it is, just as long as somebody gets the job done."

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The run started against the Twins on Friday, when Melky Cabrera came through with a two-run single that set off a celebration and put a cherry on a 5-4 triumph.

One afternoon later, Alex Rodriguez put an end to an 11-inning nail-biter with a two-run homer to left field, securing a 6-4 win that marked his first hit at the new Stadium.

The implications of Damon's laser Sunday were historic. Not since Aug. 27-29, 1972, with Richard Nixon preparing to defend his presidency against challenger George McGovern, had the Yankees won three straight in walk-off fashion.

"I've never seen it in my career," Rodriguez said. "It's very rare. It's exciting. We're playing an exciting brand of baseball."

"We're playing defense, we're getting timely hitting when we need it, our pitchers have been very good, and I think you could say the same about their club," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's why these games have ended this way."

In 1972, the Yankees won both games of a doubleheader against the Royals on Aug. 27, with Johnny Callison stroking a single in the ninth inning of Game 1 off Kansas City's Ted Abernathy to post a 7-6 win. Horace Clarke's sacrifice fly off Bruce Dal Canton brought home Celerino Sanchez, ending a 9-8 contest in the nightcap.

After a day off, the Yankees welcomed the Rangers to town and posted a win in familiar fashion. The 11th-inning hero that night was again Callison, who singled to right, sending home Ron Blomberg with New York's seventh and winning run.

But to find a sequence in which the Yankees have walked off three straight times against the same opponent, researchers needed to go back to 1931, when the Tigers were unwilling witnesses to history on three straight July dates at the classic Stadium.

New York posted a 7-6 victory in 13 innings on July 23 of that season, then put up three runs in the ninth inning to beat Detroit, 6-5, on July 24. The July 25 contest stretched into the 11th inning before the Yankees emerged as 10-7 victors.

But if the Yankees truly want to make some history, they'll need to accomplish this rare feat two more times to tie the Major League record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that belongs to the Houston Astros, who victimized the New York Mets and Montreal Expos five times at the Astrodome from July 19-23 in 1986.

Craig Reynolds homered in the ninth inning on July 19 off New York's Roger McDowell, lifting Houston to a 5-4 win. In the 15th inning the next night, Kevin Bass legged out a fielder's choice that pushed across Bill Doran with the ninth and winning run, with McDowell again pitching for the Mets.

With the Mets out of town and on their way to a World Series title, the fun continued against the Expos. The series opened with Jose Cruz's ninth-inning single off Jeff Reardon that sent Houston to an 8-7 win, and it continued a day later when Glenn Davis hit a solo homer in the 10th inning off Floyd Youmans for the only run of the game.

Houston's fifth straight walk-off win, the record-setter, came on July 23. That contest went to the home half of the 11th tied at 3, when Davey Lopes came through with a single off Tim Burke, sending home Dickie Thon with the winning run and letting the rainbow-clad Astros celebrate once more.

So will the Yankees be able to keep their string of helmet-tossing, bat-flipping celebrations intact? Girardi wouldn't mind if it comes that way, but after three in a row, he'd love for a laugher to be on deck Monday.

"It is amazing. I've never been a part of something like this, three in a row," Girardi said. "There's probably a few more gray hairs on my head after these last three, but they have things to take care of that."

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

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