By Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange
NEW YORK — Standing near his locker with his first home run ball neatly wrapped in a sock, Drew Robinson savored the achievement, especially because it wound up be the game-winning hit for the Texas Rangers.
Standing with his right arm wrapped up, Matt Bush also savored his moment after enduring his toughest stretch closing out games.
Robinson slugged a home run in the top of the fourth inning and Bush struck out Gary Sanchez with Aaron Judge on first base in the ninth as Texas held on for a 7-6 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday after bolting to a seven-run lead.
Robinson appeared in his second major league game after joining the Rangers on Saturday and produced his first two hits. His first hit was a homer into the Yankees’ bullpen beyond the right-center field wall as Texas led 7-0.
“You can’t really put it into words yet, but a lot of work went into that moment for me,” Robinson said.
Gradually the lead eroded as the Yankees chipped away, first with four runs against Nick Martinez (3-3) on a single by Judge and a three-run homer by Sanchez in the fifth.
Then it became a one-run game in the seventh on a solo homer by Ronald Torreyes off Jose Leclerc and a RBI single by Didi Gregorius off Alex Claudio.
The lead could have been completely erased. Before Gregorius’ single, he nearly hit a three-run homer, missing it by a few feet down the right-field line.
The rally ended with Gregorius’ single because right fielder Shin-Soo Choo threw out Sanchez, who tried to reach third from first base.
Enter Bush, whose last two outings saw him blow two saves and allow four earned runs.
One was a game-tying homer to Brett Gardner on Friday, but this time Bush struck out the left fielder. After getting Austin Romine, he had Judge down to the last strike but gave up a single.
“It’s Yankee Stadium,” Bush said. “You know where you are. You know the situation. Just trying to breathe, just let it go, trust in my ability and what got me here. That’s it.”
After a brief consultation with manager Jeff Banister, Bush needed five pitches to retire Sanchez on a 1-2 curveball in the dirt and convert his ninth save in 13 opportunities.
“That was a big-boy save,” Banister said.
Before Robinson’s first homer and Bush’s “big-boy save,” the Rangers jumped to a 3-0 lead through the first inning and a 6-0 lead through two innings.
Elvis Andrus started with an RBI single and Adrian Beltre followed with a two-run homer against Michael Pineda (7-4). Choo then slugged a three-run shot about halfway into the second deck in right and the Rangers seemingly were on their way to easily winning for the 11th time in 16 games.
While the Yankees nearly came back, their two-week slump continued. When Sanchez struck out, the Yankees fell to 2-10 in their last 12 games, with seven of those defeats coming by three runs or less.
Compounding matters for New York were a few more injuries.
The Yankees lost Aaron Hicks to a ribcage injury in the fourth inning and he likely is headed to the disabled list. New York also played without Starlin Castro, who had a shot in his right wrist on Saturday, and Matt Holliday, who was sick.
“You worry about the injuries,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We were kind of limited with what we had today, but you have to keep it in perspective.
“It’s two weeks, but we’re still tied for first place in our division. We had a tough, poor, two weeks; in a sense, you could have gotten in a lot of trouble, but we’re in a good spot.”
Perhaps more concerning to the Yankees is their pitching continued to falter. Pineda allowed a season-high seven runs and six hits in four innings. It was the third time in his last five starts that he gave up at least five earned runs.
“Sometimes those things will happen,” Castro said. “We’re not a machine. We’re not playing good baseball right now, but we’ll keep pushing and fighting, and I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Martinez allowed four runs and six hits in five innings.