Mike Ford has hit 10 homers in 36 games as an injury fill-in for the AL East-leading Yankees.
NEW YORK — Through Little League and high school, three years in the Ivy League and six more in the minors, Mike Ford held onto his childhood dream.
The local kid, a lifelong Yankee fan, hitting a winning homer in the Bronx. All these years, seemed too good to be true.
“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” he said.
Ford followed Brett Gardner’s tying homer with New York’s second straight walk-off shot, and the Yankees rallied from four runs down to beat the Oakland Athletics 5-4 Sunday.
Gardner led off the ninth with a homer to right off All-Star closer Liam Hendriks (4-2), and Ford followed by driving a 3-2 pitch into the Yankees bullpen in right-center. The rookie stood at home plate and watched his first pinch-hit homer soar, then tossed his bat high toward the home dugout. Gardner doused him with a water cooler after he circled the bases.
“I didn’t hear anything, which is crazy,” Ford said. “Just a whole rush of emotion.”
Ford is from New Jersey and was undrafted as a husky slugger from Princeton in 2013. The 27-year-old played 572 minor league games before his first big league call-up this year, and he’s hit 10 homers in 36 games as an injury fill-in for the AL East-leading Yankees.
“A guy that just has professional at-bats,” Gardner said.
DJ LeMahieu hit a game-ending homer in a 4-3, 11-inning victory over Oakland on Saturday. New York has won six of seven and salvaged a series win against the A’s. The Yankees have won eight straight rubber matches and improved to 90-48, becoming the first team this year to reach 90 victories.
A’s left-hander Sean Manaea pitched one-hit ball over five innings in his first start since shoulder surgery last September, and Oakland led 4-0 after 7 1/2 innings.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the eighth, got a sacrifice fly from Gleyber Torres and a two-run single by Didi Gregorius to make it 4-3 before Hendriks got the final two outs. New York hasn’t been blanked in 220 games, the second longest streak since at least 1900 behind the Babe Ruth-led Yankees spanning 1931-33.
Sheldon Neuse — pronounced “noisy” — lined a tiebreaking, two-run double for his first major league hit in the seventh for Oakland, and Matt Olson made a stellar defensive play at first base before hitting his 28th homer.
“The only thing I could think of is I, ‘Wow, I just put one in play and scored a couple runs and now I’m standing on second at Yankee Stadium,’” Neuse said. “Just took a deep breath, took it all in.”
Yankees left-hander J.A. Happ countered Manaea with six scoreless innings of one-hit ball, walking four and striking out five. Adam Ottavino (6-4) pitched a scoreless inning to win.
Oakland trails Cleveland by a half-game for the second AL wild card and is a full game behind Tampa Bay for the first spot.
Manaea walked three and struck out five with 82 pitches in a stellar return.
“That’s all we were looking to get from him and boy he’s got to feel good about that,” manager Bob Melvin said.
The 27-year-old walked three in the fifth inning but left the bases loaded when Olson dived to stop Mike Tauchman’s grounder and threw from his back to Manaea at the bag.
Olson, last year’s AL Gold Glove Award winner at first, also made an over-the-shoulder, basket catch on the warning track on Gary Sánchez’s pop foul in the eighth.