On April 30, 2010, the White Sox were pressed into starting career infielder Jayson Nix in right field. With the game tied at 4, Derek Jeter hit a slicing liner to right field. Nix did what he could, but his diving Shetland Pony frame fell just short. The ball rattled around the corner, two runs scored, and the Yankees went on to win the game, 7-4.
Nearly a year later, Ozzie Guillen had to roll with another diminutive infielder in the right field corner at Yankee Stadium. Brent Lillibridge entered the game as a pinch-runner for Carlos Quentin, and after scoring on Paul Konerko's go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning, he took Quentin's spot in right field.
The Yankees tested him in the ninth with not just one slicing liner, but two of them. They came with two on and one out, and both had a high degree of difficulty.
And Lillibridge caught them both.
First came Alex Rodriguez, who greeted Sergio Santos with a weird, sounding liner off the end of his bat. It didn't seem like it had a chance of going out, but it kept carrying toward the warning track. Lillibridge drifted right along with it, tracked the slice and timed his leap perfectly. He watched the ball all the way into his glove as he slammed into the wall, then fired the ball back the cutoff man to freeze Jeter at second.
He wasn't done. Robinson Cano followed by ripping a liner to right field. Lillibridge got a good jump, threw his body at the sinking liner and picked it off the turf before he got a face full of it. He held up his mitt in triumph and high-fived the grass in celebration as Cano slammed his helmet to the ground.
(Courtesy of Lookout Landing)
Santos may have gotten the save, but it should go on Lillibridge's tab. Then again, poor outfield defense had undermined the bullpen earlier in the year, so Lillibridge's effort was a start in making it up to the White Sox relief corps.
In the process, Lillibridge preserved a victory for Gavin Floyd. Outside of a pair of solo homers by Cano and Brett Gardner - both of them showed bunt early in the at-bat, oddly enough -- he was terrific. He struck out 10 Yankees over his eight innings, allowing just four hits.
Ozzie Guillen gave him a shot at the complete game, but it ended on Jeter's swinging bunt starting the ninth. Guillen looked none too pleased by Floyd's misfortune.
Overall, though, the Sox couldn't complain about luck. They scored their first run because the Yankees couldn't catch the ball. Alex Rios' two-seam liner went in and out of Curtis Granderson's mitt in an unsuccessful shoestring grab attempt. Rios then stole second when Cano couldn't catch Gustavo Molina's perfect, on-time throw. Gordon Beckham followed with a single through the right side, and Rios beat Nick Swisher's throw home fair and square to tie the game at 1.
They didn't take their first lead until the eighth inning, when Paul Konerko deposited a Rafael Soriano fastball into the left field seats.