LOS ANGELES -- Call it a reflection on the team or a reflection on the player, but at the crucial moment of Wednesday night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, there were few New York Yankees you would have rather seen at the plate than Lyle Overbay.
Overbay has one of the Yankees' only two grand slams this season, four of his 12 home runs have given the Yankees a lead, and three of those came in the seventh inning or later. His batting average with the bases loaded (.273) is higher than Robinson Cano's, and his batting average with two outs is significantly higher than both Cano's and Brett Gardner's. Eleven times this season, he has come to bat with the bases loaded; 10 of those times, he has driven in a run.
New York Yankees
And heading into the ninth inning of a scoreless tie Wednesday night, 10 of Overbay's 45 RBIs had been game-winners, highest on the team.
Now, make that 11 of 46.
Held out of the lineup against lefty starter Clayton Kershaw but sent up to hit for Brent Lillibridge with runners on first and second and two out, Overbay very nearly struck out on three pitches from reliever Paco Rodriguez.
But a non-call by third-base umpire Bill Miller, who had ruled the previous pitch a check-swing strike, gave Overbay new life, and he used it to punch the next pitch, a hanging slider, into center field to drive in the first run of the game. The Yankees tacked on two more when the Dodgers botched what should have been a routine inning-ending pop up, and ended up winning, 3-0. But it was Overbay, a day after he knocked in the Yankees' only two runs of Tuesday's 3-2 loss, who delivered the only hit of the three-run ninth and, as has been his habit this year, the biggest hit of the game.
"I was just being too aggressive on those first pitches," he said. "I was looking for a slider and he threw it to me, and finally that last one didn't break like the other two."
As a result, the Yankees got a break in this two-game series, leaving town with a split that just as easily could have been a sweep, with Dodgers ace Kershaw throwing eight shutout innings but being pulled before the ninth by Don Mattingly for Ronald Belisario. Mattingly wound up getting ejected for arguing the check-swing that Miller did not call a strike, and it was probably just as well, because things just went downhill from there for the Dodgers.
"I’m not gonna be naive, there’s some lefty pitchers who are going to dominate me," Overbay said of not getting to start against Kershaw. "So if we have that option to put me on the bench and maybe come in late, then those are options we didn’t have the last couple of months."
With Derek Jeter back in action and Curtis Granderson due to return this weekend in San Diego, Overbay may finally have some competition in the clutch-hitting department. But for a guy who joined the team in the last week of spring training and was given three days to prove he should stay, Overbay has done a fabulous job not only of filling in for Mark Teixeira -- who has the other Yankees grand slam -- but of winning games for them as well.
“You feel like, if he gets a pitch, he can do something," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He’s been in a lot of big situations in his career, and I give him a lot of credit for hanging in there. It was a huge hit for us."
• Girardi sent Eduardo Nunez in to run for Jeter in the ninth after Jeter led off with a walk, and said afterward he was concerned about Jeter running too hard on his strained quad if there was a ball hit in the gap. Jeter said he had been pinch-run for before, although only late in games that were already out of reach one way or the other. Asked if he was OK with Girardi's move, Jeter said, "Yeah, I'm OK with it. I don't have any choice."
• Hiroki Kuroda pitched another gem -- seven scoreless innings, five hits, no walks and eight strikeouts -- but came away with a no-decision. Boone Logan, who barely escaped the eighth inning, got the win. Kuroda lowered his ERA to 2.38, second-best in the AL behind Felix Hernandez (2.34).