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Battle-tested Yanks take Game 109/10/2008 12:01 AM ET
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
MOOSIC, Pa. -- Eric Duncan got the game-winning hit Tuesday night for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But Tim Battle got the thrill of a lifetime.
It was Duncan's sinking line drive single into right field that brought home Battle to give the Yankees an improbable 8-7 victory over the Durham Bulls in the opening game of the Governors' Cup Finals at PNC Field. But it was Battle who put Duncan in position to be the hero, swatting an RBI double moments earlier on the first Triple-A pitch he had ever seen to knot the score at 7-7.
Battle had spent the entire season with Tampa of the Class A Advanced Florida State League and hadn't swung a bat in a game since Aug. 31. But when he stepped in to face Scott Dohmann with one out and Chris Basak on second base, his only focus was on getting a game-tying hit.
"I'm a baseball player," said Battle, who lined Dohmann's initial offering into the left-field corner. "You can't go up there worried about [him] scoring. He was trying to blow one by me and I got my pitch. I was just trying to put it in play."
Battle entered in the seventh inning as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement for Shelley Duncan, whose two-run double had given the Yanks a 6-2 lead. But Durham rallied in the top of the eighth, scoring five times to take a one-run advantage that they carried into the ninth.
Juan Miranda led off the ninth with a grounder down the first-base line that Chris Richard struggled with before picking up and throwing wildly to the covering Dohmann. The errant throw allowed Miranda to take second before Basak came on as a pinch-runner. That brought up Battle in the spot that normally would have been filled by Shelley Duncan, the same player who smacked the walk-off homer in Sunday's victory over Pawtucket.
"I knew I'd be coming up in the ninth," said Battle, who joined the team Friday after New York recalled Melky Cabrera. "I was just glad Miranda got on base. I'm really excited to get that first one out of the way. I came here to do whatever I could and play a role.
"I was out getting lunch when they called me and asked me if I wanted to go to Scranton. I said, 'What kind of question is that?' And it all worked out well."
After Ben Broussard walked and Matt Carson hit into a fielder's choice -- Durham shortstop Jorge Velandia had trouble with the ball and should have turned a double play -- Duncan lined one to right that hit just in front of Jon Weber. Duncan rounded first and received the obligatory mugging from his teammates but afterward deflected all the praise.
"A lot of credit goes to Tim Battle," Duncan said. "It speaks volumes about who he is. Physically, he can do it. And to be calm and hit the first pitch you see, I can't say enough about him."
The eighth and ninth innings ended what was an entertaining affair that started out rough (both Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Chase Wright and Durham's David Price struggled early), became a pitchers' duel and ended in rather sloppy fashion with neither bullpen distinguishing itself.
The first inning provided an early momentum push for the Yanks, one from which the Bulls almost never recovered. Wright plunked Jonny Gomes with two outs and found himself in deeper trouble after shortstop Nick Green's throwing error put runners on first and second. Chris Nowak followed with a single to left, but Justin Christian fired a bullet to the plate, nailing Gomes for the final out.
The Yankees then went to work against Price. Bernie Castro got the bottom half of the first started with a one-out double. Juan Miranda brought him home with a single before Ben Broussard smoked an opposite-field line drive on a 2-1 pitch that bounced off the top of the left-field fence and over to give Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a 3-0 lead.
Wright was in just as much trouble in the second but extricated himself. The Bulls, however, broke through in the third after the left-hander issued a leadoff walk to Velandia. Richards' one-out single and a two-run double by Elliot Johnson sliced the margin to one.
Johnson's double proved to be the last blip against Wright, who retired the next 10 batters before turning the game over to David Robertson in the seventh.
Price, meanwhile, also transformed into a different pitcher after the first inning. He allowed just one more hit until Shelley Duncan's one-out double in the sixth. That brought Broussard up and, after going 2-1 on the designated hitter, Price called manager Charlie Montoyo and trainer Jimmy Southward to the mound because of a problem with his pitching hand.
After a pair of warmup pitches, Price got Broussard to fly to left. But Matt Carson followed with an infield single that scored Duncan to give the Yanks a 4-2 lead. Price finished out the inning but was done for the night, leaving after throwing 88 pitches. He struck out nine and walked one.
Afterwards, there was some confusion as to what the issue actually was. Montoyo told reporters that Price's problem was with a fingernail, while the hurler claimed it was a blister. Both, however, agreed it wasn't a problem, as evidenced by the fact that he remained in the game.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.