As midnight approached and Wednesday threatened to turn to Thursday, the New York Yankees were three outs away from their most dispiriting loss yet of a horrific August. Somehow, they never even recorded one of those outs.
The mood in a rain-cleared Yankee Stadium had been deadened minutes earlier by a backbreaking, bases-clearing double off Aroldis Chapman on a two-strike count to Francisco Mejia. One strike away from escaping a self-made jam, Chapman yanked a 101 MPH fastball to the bottom of the zone, and Mejia sprayed it harshly down the right field line, creating a seemingly-insurmountable three-run, extra-innings deficit out of thin air.
And yet, as thin as that air was, there was still enough humidity for the Bringer of Rain to open the skies minutes later.
For between eight and ten minutes, the 2022 New York Yankees’ season was unquestionably dead. Damn the impending eight-game lead in the standings. There was no one left who believed this once-promising season could still be salvaged.
Now? The Bombers still have a long way to go, but it’s certainly possible that the team’s second chance began the exact same way as the home opener: with a Josh Donaldson walk-off smash. And this one came with a little extra emotion.
Yankees’ Josh Donaldson walk-off grand slam was poetic tribute to Uncle Bill
Did Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial light the fuse? Certainly tough to credit that victory to Cabrera’s 0-for-4 game or Florial’s shoestring catch; Ron Marinaccio was doubly important, working his patented scoreless ball in the seventh and eighth. But something awakened in the Yankees at their lowest moment, and Donaldson’s dripping swagger on the game-sealing bat drop could’ve overflowed the dugout.
Behind that swagger, though, was both a deep sense of relief and an emotional outpouring for a loved one battling elsewhere out in the world.
Donaldson revealed in his postgame huddle with Meredith Marakovits that his uncle Bill recently suffered a heart attack, and was recuperating in the hospital. We don’t know much more than that, considering Donaldson had trouble even working through the sentiment on live television.
What we do know — or, at least, we think we caught — was Donaldson, burying his head in Gleyber Torres’ chest in the dugout, apparently mouthing the one thing every Yankee fan wants to hear: “We’re back.”
It’ll be a while before any one of us fully buys into a return to dominance. Remember, these Yankees weren’t just good and fearsome — something they’ve theoretically been all the way back to 1993. These Yankees were historic. One rain-soaked win that was inches from a loss won’t restore that mid-June roar.
But if the team believes, we have to believe a little.
With the Toronto Blue Jays coming into town for four, the Yankees still lead the American League East by 10 games, which could’ve been eight if not for a well-struck ball off the bat of Donaldson that was somehow both a short-porcher and hit far enough for the center field camera to have the time to linger on his bat drop and waltz down the line.
Poetry in motion, paused. Long enough to remember the games they’d lost and the people still hanging on. The team might not be all the way back yet, but they certainly came back to life from the brink on Wednesday. Now, it begins anew.