By the time the game between the Yankees and the Atlanta Braves was over, the two teams had combined to hit nine home runs, tying the record for most homers in a game at Yankee Stadium, past or present. The Yankees hit four of the homers, but they were all solo shots, and the more resourceful Braves went on to win, 10-5, on a sweaty but memorable day.
Whether from the heat (the game-time temperature was 94 degrees), a light breeze out to right field or the tilt of the Earth’s axis on the summer solstice, balls were soaring out to center and skying over the wall in right. One went careening into the seats in left field, and another barely drifted over the wall in right center.
So many balls left the yard, it was hard to keep track.
“What was it, seven total?” Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez said before being corrected. “Nine? Wow. That’s amazing.”
A 10th ball actually went over the wall in the fifth, only to be nimbly caught and pulled back by Atlanta center fielder Michael Bourn, who thus robbed Jayson Nix of a chance to help set a home run record for Yankee home games at either of the two stadiums. The major league record for most homers in a game is 12.
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward was the only player to hit two into the stands. His second, a two-run shot in the top of the eighth, effectively put the game out of reach for the Yankees, even on a no-holds-barred day like this one.
Eight home runs had been hit in a single game at the new stadium on several occasions. And the Yankees and their opponents combined for nine homers in four instances at the old stadium, most recently on July 31, 2007, when the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox traded blows.
The Yankees hit eight of the nine that day, tying a team record for homers in any park. Hideki Matsui (twice), Bobby Abreu, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Shelly Duncan all trotted around the bases.
The Yankees also hit eight on June 28, 1939, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, with Joe DiMaggio going deep twice in a 23-2 shellacking of the Athletics. (The Yankees hit five more homers to win the second game of the doubleheader, 10-0.)
On Wednesday, the Braves’ Freddie Freeman started it off with a two-run shot in the first inning. Martin Prado, Heyward and David Ross followed for the Braves, while Derek Jeter, Eric Chavez, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano all homered for the Yankees.
Phil Hughes, the Yankees’ starting pitcher, and Tommy Hanson, his Atlanta counterpart, each gave up four homers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first game in Yankees history that two pitchers each gave up four home runs.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said it was evident early on that the ball was carrying. But Hughes would not use that as an excuse, and the only ball that most players agreed was a weather-enhanced homer was the one Rodriguez hit that drifted out to right-center.
“Balls were hit well,” said Hughes, who lost for the first time since May 17. “That’s really all I can say about it. I’m sure Hanson would like to have the one that Al hit back. But for the most part, they all seemed to be hit pretty well.”
The one ball that was definitely not struck well, when the Yankees needed a base hit most, was the inning-ending double-play grounder that Rodriguez hit in the bottom of the seventh, with the Yankees trailing by 6-5 and with runners on first and third.
Afterward, Rodriguez beat himself up for hitting a pitcher’s pitch, a sinker about three inches off the plate.
“No sugarcoating it,” Rodriguez said. “That was just not an acceptable at-bat right there.”
The Braves added three more runs in the next inning, and then a final run in the ninth. It was too much to overcome, and so the Yankees, whose 10-game winning streak ended on Tuesday, lost their second straight for the first time since defeats on May 28-29 at Anaheim, Calif. They also surrendered a season-high 10 runs.
“I didn’t think we were going to win 100 in a row,” Girardi said. “I didn’t think that was possibly going to happen.”
He probably also did not think that there would be nine home runs in nine innings, but there were.
The Yankees honored Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones, who is retiring at the end of the season. Derek Jeter and Andruw Jones presented him with the third-base bag from Tuesday’s game. Andruw Jones was Chipper’s teammate in Atlanta. The Yankees lost for the first time this season in a game in which Alex Rodriguez had a run batted in. They had been 18-0 in those instances.