For the second time in as many days, the Yankees came up clutch in the ninth inning to beat the American League West-leading Rangers, defeating Texas, 2-1, on a passed ball Thursday afternoon to get back to .500 at 39-39. The Rangers have lost consecutive games for the first time since losing three straight to the Athletics from May 16-18.
Chase Headley scored on a mad dash from third base on a Robinson Chirinos passed ball with two outs in the ninth. Headley led off the inning with a walk before Didi Gregorius, the hero in Wednesday's walk-off win, bunted Headley into scoring position and a Starlin Castrogroundout put him on third base.
"When you get an opportunity like that with two outs in the ninth, you got to find a way to score," Headley said. "We'll take it any way we can get it -- that was a great win. These can be momentum wins. That's a really good team over there, and to come back and get a couple wins from them, that's big for us."
Michael Pineda was stellar, striking out a season-high 12 batters in six innings, over which he allowed just two hits and one run. It was the second consecutive outing that Pineda allowed only two hits, and he earned no-decisions in both of the games. The Yankees' three-pronged bullpen attack of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman took over from there, allowing two hits and striking out four, effectively silencing the Rangers in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
"Their guy on the hill was exceptional," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "That slider was devastating and he had a 96-mph fastball. That's that guy. He can throw like an ace or give up some runs. Then you get to their big guys, they are as challenging as anybody."
"He was really good today," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Pineda. "He gives up a home run to start the game and then he shut them down after that. And this is a good offense. This club scores a lot of runs. I thought he was really impressive. It might have been, and probably was, his best start of the year."
Texas' one run came in the first at-bat of the game, when Shin-Soo Choo led off with a home run against Pineda. After the first inning, the Rangers didn't record another hit until after Pineda left the game. Starting pitcher A.J. Griffin dominated the Yankees in the early going, allowing just two hits and one run in five innings. After 88 pitches and eight strikeouts, though, Griffin was replaced by Shawn Tolleson.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Choo goes deep: It's the 18th time in Choo's career that he has led off the first inning with a home run. But the Rangers managed just three singles the rest of the afternoon.
"Our guys continue to play hard, but obviously it was a tough day at the plate," Banister said.
Bases-loaded letdown: The Yankees' best chance to open up this game before the ninth inning came in the seventh. Brett Gardner came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs and the game tied at 1. Rangers reliever Jake Diekman forced Gardner to ground out softly to second base to end the threat.
Didi doing damage: Less than a day after lacing the first walk-off home run of his career into the right-field bleachers, Gregorius stayed hot Thursday afternoon by hitting a fifth-inning solo homer to tie the game at 1, his eighth blast of the season. Since June 14, Gregorius is 22-for-59 (.373) with 12 runs scored and seven extra-base hits.
"My comfort level was there because I ended up [last] season on a really good note and just tried to take it over [into this season]," Gregorius said of his improvements at the plate. "Some things I learned last year and [I'm] trying to get better this year and trying to make some improvements. The confidence has always been there."
Nine whiffs in a row: Griffin and Pineda at one point combined to strike out nine straight batters. It started when Mark Teixeira struck out to end the bottom of the first. Both pitchers then struck out the side in the second and Pineda began the third by striking out Choo andIan Desmond.
"Terrific pitching on both sides today," third baseman Adrian Beltre said.
QUOTABLE "I told him a double is a single, a triple is a double, and if you hit it out of the park, you're allowed to run all the way around," -- Girardi, on what he told Carlos Beltran when he allowed him to pinch-hit despite dealing with a hamstring injury
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Left-hander Martin Perez pitches for the Rangers at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday against the Twins at Target Field. Perez has a six-game winning streak on the line.
Yankees: The Yankees will head to the West Coast for the opener of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Friday at 10:40 p.m. ET. Nathan Eovaldi will take the mound at Petco Park, trying to limit the long ball after allowing four home runs his last time out, a loss to Minnesota.