NEW YORK (AP) — Journeyman Brian Gordon kept the Yankees close in a most unlikely start, then Brett Gardner hit a winning single in the 12th inning that sent New York past the Texas Rangers 3-2 Thursday for a three-game sweep.
The Yankees became the first team to sweep AL champion Texas this year. New York won for the sixth time in seven tries and sent the Rangers to their season-worst fifth loss in a row.
Gardner’s one-out hit off Michael Kirkman (1-1) ended an afternoon that began with baseball’s latest feel-good story.
Needing a starter for their banged-up staff, the Yankees reached into the grab bag and plucked out the 32-year-old Gordon, a converted outfielder whose only prior big league experience came in three relief appearances for Texas in 2008.
Gordon actually belonged to the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this week, and was 5-0 for Triple-A Lehigh Valley with a 1.14 ERA that led the International League. His contract came with a catch, however: He could instantly opt out if any major league team wanted him.
When the Yanks came calling a couple of days ago, Gordon choose to leave the IronPigs and put on pinstripes. Asked whether he was worried the Phils would be upset at his maneuvering, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman answered: “Hey, they got Cliff Lee, I got Brian Gordon.”
Gordon pitched effectively enough, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings. He retired Ian Kinsler on a fly with his first pitch of the day, later struck out AL MVP Josh Hamilton and got former teammate Michael Young on a popup in a key spot.
Cory Wade (1-0), who also signed with the Yankees this week, pitched two perfect innings.
Texas starter C.J. Wilson struck out 10 and threw a career-high 129 pitches in eight innings. Darren Oliver relieved in the ninth and New York loaded the bases with one out before Curtis Granderson struck out chasing a full-count slider and Mark Teixeira grounded out.
Granderson singled to start the 12th and Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch, though Texas manager Ron Washington argued the ball hit his bat. Gardner grounded a single to right and Granderson scored easily.
Armed with an average fastball and a big bender, Gordon led 1-0 before Texas nicked him for two runs in the fifth. Kinsler looped an RBI double and with two outs, the bases loaded and the crowd standing, Gordon lost control of an 0-2 curve that plunked Adrian Beltre and forced home the go-ahead run.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Gordon after a one-out single by Taylor Teagarden in the sixth. Gordon got a nice ovation and glanced up at his family and friends as he left.
Gordon’s wife, dad and mom were among his rooters sitting in the first two rows of the second deck, above the Yankees’ dugout. His mother, in fact, is the receptionist for Texas’ Triple-A Round Rock affiliate.
“I think it just now feels real,” wife Amanda said as Texas batted in the seventh inning. As the couple’s young son and daughter played with water bottles, Gordon’s wife fanned herself with two souvenir tickets and said, “This is better than anything we dreamed about.”
The Yankee Stadium sound system played Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” when Gordon was introduced on the videoboard. Fitting, seeing how this was his 14th team and sixth organization since he started his pro career in 1997.
Gordon hit 118 homers in his 10 years as an outfielder. He switched to pitching in 2007, helped by Astros executive Nolan Ryan.
Gordon’s locker still had no nameplate an hour before the game. His stall did not come with a personal computer screen, the kind the Yankees regulars get. For a while, Gordon was the only player in the clubhouse, sitting quietly in a chair and getting mentally prepared.
Jorge Posada hit an RBI double in the New York sixth that made it 2-all. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the second on Russell Martin’s two-out single.
Martin missed the previous three games with back trouble. He had a good day behind the plate, too, throwing out a pair of would-be basestealers.
Notes: Posada lined into an odd double play that ended the 10th. He hit a shot that bounced out of Beltre’s glove, but the third baseman caught the carom on the fly and easily tossed out Brett Gardner at first. … Endy Chavez popped up a bunt and bumped into 1B Teixeira as he caught the ball along the line in the ninth. Teixeira looked at Chavez, and gave him a slap on the side with his glove to say all was OK. … The Yankees open a three-game series Friday at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. Girardi plans to drive 2½ hours on Sunday morning to visit his dad, who has Alzheimer’s disease, on Father’s Day.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.