McCann accomplishes rare Yankees feat

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees were at a crucial point in a season that had been all too frustrating. A pinch-hit home run in the 10th inning gave them a rousing 7-4 win.

"You never know," Dave Winfield said. "It could be a trend. We could get hot."

Dave Winfield?

Sure, because the 10th-inning, pinch-hit home run in question, and the 7-4 win, came in September 1988, not August 2014. Gary Ward hit it off Guillermo Hernandez of the Detroit Tigers (with Winfield and Don Mattingly on base), and at least until Sunday, it was the last extra-inning, pinch-hit walk-off home run by a Yankee, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

"We won a big ballgame," Yankee manager Lou Piniella said that night.

Sort of like they did Sunday, when it was Brian McCann hitting the 10th-inning, pinch-hit home run, the one the 2014 Yankees hoped could start a trend and get them hot.

It worked in 1988, but not well enough. The Yankees won their next three games, two of them on walk-offs. They closed to within 3½ games of first place but never ended up getting any closer, missing the playoffs for a seventh straight year.

McCann's home run Sunday also left the Yankees 3½ games out of a playoff spot, in this case the final wild-card spot in the American League.

It was the third pinch-hit homer of McCann's career. It was his first walk-off pinch-hit homer, although on May 17, 2011, he actually did one better than that.

That afternoon in Atlanta, McCann pinch-hit with two out in the ninth inning against Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon, and hit a home run that sent the game into extra innings. He stayed in the game to catch, and two innings later hit a two-run walk-off homer off Jeff Fulchino.

McCann pinch-hit often with the Braves, no surprise because with no designated hitter, National League catchers start quite a few games on the bench.

"I've had years I've been really good at it, and years where I've been awful," McCann said. "I think it's just a feel. You can be hot, or you can be cold."

Sunday's pinch-hit appearance was McCann's 12th as a Yankee. He's now 3-for-11 (with one hit by pitch) as a Yankee pinch-hitter, with one very big home run.

Who knows, it could be a trend.