NEW YORK -- Vernon Wells came up to the plate looking for a fastball.
He got five of them. He didn't miss the fifth.
New York Yankees
- AVG .224
Wells, who came in hitless in his past 11 at-bats and in a prolonged 9-for-87 slump, drilled a 96 mph heater from Rays left-hander Jake McGee into right-center field for a go-ahead, pinch-hit, bases-clearing double with two outs in the seventh inning, and the Yankees went on to beat Tampa Bay, 7-5, on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
"Kevin [Long] and I worked on some things today, and he was throwing really hard to me, so it kind of tuned me up a little bit,” Wells said. “I took the first pitch to see what it was like, and I saw it really well. I looked up at the [score]board and it said 96 [mph]. I said, ‘OK.’ That’s a good feeling.
“It’s not a good feeling when they throw a ball and all of a sudden it’s in their glove and you don’t see it. At that point, it was just like, let’s get a good swing on the ball and try not to do too much, and let him supply the power.”
The double was Wells’ first extra-base hit since May 31. He had been hitless in six previous at-bats with the bases loaded.
“This game is not easy, and all anybody sees are the results,” said Wells, who got off to a torrid start but is hitting just .224 on the season. “I haven’t felt too bad. It was just I try to find the positive in everything. It was good to hit a ball and it not land in somebody’s glove. And it came at a great time. I tend to forget about what happened the at-bat before, the day before and today’s a new day, a better day than yesterday.”
Wells said he hasn’t lost confidence, “because as soon as you lose confidence, you’re done.”
Maybe the 34-year-old has something left in the tank after all.
With the Yankees rallying back from a 5-3 deficit, manager Joe Girardi told Wells to “get ready.” Girardi and the rest of the Yankees' coaching staff liked the matchup of Wells against the flame-throwing southpaw.
“The first swing I took, I was just trying to get the cobwebs out,” Wells said. “The next swing, I fouled it straight back and felt like I was on it. I got another one up the zone to attack and I put a good swing on it.”
Wells was hitting so poorly that he lost his spot in the lineup. Rookie Zoilo Almonte has excelled in his place, delivering a home run and four RBIs over the past two games.
“It allowed me to get a lot of work in,” Wells said.
When Wells returned to the dugout after coming through in the clutch, Chris Stewart, who he pinch hit for, joked, “‘I would’ve hit a homer, but that’s OK,’” said Wells.
On this day, Wells could enjoy a good laugh.