Yankees mastering art of the walk-off

Yanks mastering art of the walk-off

NEW YORK -- When A.J. Burnett began pelting the Yankees' walk-off heroes with pies earlier this year, he hoped he was starting a tradition. But he could not have envisioned this.

Of the team's 48 wins at home this season entering Wednesday, 13 -- or roughly one out of every four -- have come in the final at-bat. Nick Swisher's walk-off homer in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Rays was simply the latest in a string of dramatic victories that began with Melky Cabrera's 14th-inning homer against the Athletics in April, continued through three consecutive walk-off wins against the Twins in May and even now shows no signs of ceasing.

With 13 home games to go in the regular season, the club has walked off more than any Yankees team since 1978, when the eventual World Series champions also did it 13 times.

"Since I've been here, it feels like we pie a guy every week," Tuesday's starting pitcher, Chad Gaudin, said after the game. "It's amazing. Walk-offs are as routine as base hits and bunts around here."

In the old Yankee Stadium, the team might have explained that away with talk of auras and ghosts. But not here. Asked Wednesday to what he could attribute the late-game success, manager Joe Girardi listed three factors -- a stout bullpen, an offense with quick-strike ability and an unselfish lineup.

The first of those is the easiest to define. Since Phil Hughes became the eighth-inning setup man in June, the Yankees' bullpen has become nearly untouchable. The club has the proper weapons for the end-game -- two stout short relievers in Hughes and Mariano Rivera, and a long man in Alfredo Aceves who can eat up extra innings.

The offense, too, needs little explanation. Employing seven players with at least 20 home runs has helped the Yankees to quickly untie games on a regular basis. And the short porch in right field doesn't hurt.

Then there's the matter of unselfishness. Much has been made of the Yankees' chemistry this season, something that translates onto the field in such close-and-late situations. So many of the players have said after walk-off hits this season that they were merely trying to hit a single, shoot a ball up the middle, draw a walk -- anything to keep the rally going.

It has worked. Thirteen times, in fact.

"This team has played extremely well," Girardi said. "We've had contributions from everyone."

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