NEW YORK — The pitching matchup lived up to its stellar billing, seeing a pair of multiple-time Cy Young Award winners lug their hardware to the Yankee Stadium mound. On a cool and wet afternoon in which runs projected to be at a premium, Corey Kluber held his own, but Max Scherzer proved to be nearly unhittable.
The Yankees waved often, striking out 14 times against Scherzer, but they connected when it counted most. Gleyber Torres notched a game-tying RBI single in the ninth, Mike Ford re-tied the game in the 10th and Torres tapped home the winner to lift the Yankees to a 4-3, 11-inning victory on Saturday — their first walk-off of the season.
“I felt like we never gave up,” Torres said. “In baseball, anything can happen. It’s awesome when everybody goes to home plate, takes great at-bats, walks and believes the guys behind us can do the job. Baseball is just like that; we never give up and we always try to win the game.”
Brad Hand blew a pair of save chances in two innings, allowing Torres’ run-scoring hit in the ninth and Ford’s RBI single in the 10th. With the bases loaded and none out, Washington tried a five-man infield against Torres, who connected on a slow roller that pitcher Tanner Rainey couldn’t handle.
“We were able to scratch and claw with a couple of really clutch at-bats,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Runs were tough to come by today with Scherzer on the other side. He was a load; he was heavy today, but we were able to hang around and find a way to win a ball game, which is really nice.”
Torres became the first Yankee to have a game-tying hit in the ninth inning and a walk-off in extra innings since Raúl Ibañez in Game 3 of the 2012 American League Division Series.
“When the bullpen came in, we believed in each other,” Torres said. “We had a plan to go to home plate and tried to take really good at-bats. We never lost the mentality that we could win the game. Baseball always gives another opportunity to do something.”
Driven by Ford
Thanks to Ford’s opposite-field single, which came after an unsuccessful sacrifice attempt, the Yanks survived Trea Turner’s 10th inning sac fly — the first run Aroldis Chapman has allowed this season, albeit an unearned run placed by the automatic-runner rule.
“That was the at-bat of the game, besides Gleyber’s to win it,” Aaron Judge said of Ford’s hit. “He’s been hitting the ball hard at guys and not really getting rewarded. It shows you what type of hitter Mike Ford is. He locked it in for us and got the job done.”
Ford has struggled mightily since taking over at first base following Jay Bruce’s retirement, and with Luke Voit set to rejoin the club on the upcoming road trip, his opportunities may be scant. Ford’s opposite-field single off of Hand snapped a 1-for-23 skid.
“He really smoked the ball the other way,” Boone said. “Ford has been grinding a little bit, having a tough go of it here this last week. He handles the bat really well, so I was comfortable with him bunting there. Once he got into that 3-1 count, I felt like it was a good leverage count for him. Even if he didn’t get a pitch, the walk is always in there with him as well.”
New York’s comeback followed a magnificent performance during which Scherzer set a record for strikeouts by a visiting pitcher at the current Yankee Stadium.
Scherzer struck out six of the first seven before Kyle Higashioka slugged a solo home run into the left-field seats. Scherzer shrugged off the blow and went back to work, permitting only one runner until the eighth, retiring 13 consecutive batters.
“He had our number all game, except for Higgy,” Judge said. “We just kept battling. Any close games like that, especially when they’ve got one of the best pitchers in the game, if you keep wearing it down and you get to that bullpen, I like our chances against anybody.”
Coming off two stellar starts that earned him selection as the American League’s Player of the Week, Kluber held the Nationals to two runs over 5 2/3 innings, navigating heavy traffic on the basepaths. Kluber walked three and struck out six.
“I think it shows the character of this club,” Kluber said. “It’s not always going to be easy. There’s going to be games where things don’t go according to plan and you’ve got to find a way to win. Every win counts the same, whether it’s 10-0 or you come back and fight and claw.”