Call upheld on Posada's blast for win
Yanks believe controversial right-field shot was a homer
NEW YORK -- Moments after Jorge Posada sent Sunday's most controversial ball soaring onto -- but not over -- the new Yankee Stadium's right-field fence, manager Joe Girardi hopped off his seat in the dugout and made a beeline for the video room, adjacent to the clubhouse.
There, Girardi watched the blast from all angles. He watched it bounce off a fan's outstretched hand, near the top of the right-field wall, off Indians right fielder Trevor Crowe's glove and finally back onto the field.
Then he watched it again. And again. By the time umpiring crew chief Jerry Crawford called him out on the field following his own video review, Girardi was all but certain that Posada's hit was indeed a home run -- and a mighty important one at that. The pinch-hit two-run shot allowed the Yankees to grab their first lead of the afternoon, which they parlayed into a 7-3 victory over the Indians and a series split.
"A lot of times, you can be wrong with the naked eye," Girardi said. "But I actually thought that was a home run. It was just enough."
In more ways than one. Batting for Jose Molina with one out and Cody Ransom on first base, Posada launched a Jensen Lewis pitch to the right-field corner, which has been an area of much contention throughout the Yankees' first homestand. Despite dimensions identical to those of the old Yankee Stadium, balls have been shooting out of the new park over the past four days. In this opening series, the Yankees and Indians combined to average five home runs per game -- and 70 percent of them flew to right field.
Long considered a left-handed hitter's haven, this newest incarnation of the short porch in right field has become even more accessible due to reasons the Yankees remain quite unable to explain. Perhaps it's the wind, altered thanks to the scoreboard setup in center field. Perhaps it's the right-field wall itself, which Derek Jeter contends is shorter than it was in the old park. Perhaps it's sheer coincidence, in a series that featured two of the best offenses in the game.
Posada's was one of "only" three home runs on Sunday, after the Yankees and Indians combined for 17 of them over the first three games of the series. And most of the Yankees said afterward that the ball didn't seem to jump off their bats as it did in previous games.
"The wind was blowing in today," Mark Teixeira said, "and it wasn't carrying."
"Today, it played like the old stadium," Posada said.
He was referring to his game-winning blast, though Posada could have simply been talking about the outcome itself. Down for most of the game against old teammate Carl Pavano, the Yankees seemed destined for their third loss in four games and a losing record after two weeks of the season.
But they chipped away on Hideki Matsui's RBI single earlier in the seventh, then took their first lead on Posada's blast with one out. If not for the fan who interfered, the ball could have bounced off the top of the wall and into the stands, eliminating any controversy. As it was, Crawford ruled it a home run, because it did not hit Crowe until after it was headed back onto the field.
Approached after the game, Crawford declined comment. But the Yankees did not.
"I was pretty confident it would be a home run," said Teixeira, who drove in the Yankees' first run in the fourth. "It was a difficult play for the umpires, but they got it right."
The pinch-hit at-bat was only necessary because Yankees starter A.J. Burnett, though successful, could not match Pavano pitch for pitch. Walking seven batters and throwing three wild pitches, Burnett gave the Yankees and their taxed bullpen as much length as he could, but he allowed three runs in the process.
Burnett departed after walking the bases loaded with one out in the seventh, forcing Girardi to plop reliever Jonathan Albaladejo into the most vexing jam of the series. And all Albaladejo did was retire the next two hitters on ground balls, keeping the Yankees within two and setting the stage for Posada's home run.
"Humongous," Albaladejo said. "It's a great feeling."
From there, Girardi's two most trusted relievers -- Brian Bruney and Mariano Rivera -- finished the job. And Ransom added three insurance runs with a popup double down the left-field line. When it was over, the Yankees had won because of -- or perhaps in spite of -- their new ballpark, which also played a central role in the 22 runs the Indians scored the day before.
Whether that ultimately becomes a home-field advantage remains to be seen. The Yankees on Sunday were focusing only on the outcome.
"It was a home run," Jeter said, dismissing all the controversy.
And it was also a win.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.