A Yankee Stadium crowd on the verge of celebrating Bryan Mitchell's escape from a second-inning jam was thrust into an eerie silence Monday night when the rookie was hit in the head by Eduardo Nuñez's line drive and led from the field, a bloody towel pressed against his face.
It made much of what followed in the Yankees' wild 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Twins an afterthought, but the initial news regarding Mitchell appeared to be positive.
The Yankees (65-52), who increased their AL East lead over the idle Blue Jays to one game, announced that the 24-year-old righthander, who was evaluated and released from New York-Presbyterian Hospital, suffered a "small nasal fracture.'' He was to be monitored during the next 24 hours for concussion symptoms.
"I'm just very, very thankful it's not worse than it is," said Brett Gardner, who saw Mitchell after the game and spoke with him briefly. "He seemed like he was doing fine. He seemed like he was doing OK."
Mitchell wasn't the only Yankee to be forced from the game. In the sixth inning, Mark Teixeira fouled a ball off what appeared to be the area of his right knee before drawing a walk and giving way to pinch runner Greg Bird. The Yankees said Teixeira suffered a "bruised right lower leg,'' with X-rays negative.
"Hurts to put any pressure on it right now," he said. "Hope it's better tomorrow. You don't want to get hurt there."
Teixeira's replacement played a significant role in the victory. The lefthanded-hitting Bird swung at the first pitch he saw in the 10th, a 94-mph fastball from lefthanded closer Glen Perkins, and lined it into the gap in right-center for his first career double.
"We all know he can hit," Brian McCann said of Bird, one of the three prospects general manager Brian Cashman refused to deal at the trade deadline. "He's untouchable and he's shown in his at-bats here why."
McCann, already with five RBIs on a three-run homer with two outs in the first inning and a two-run single with two outs in the third, doubled off the glove of leftfielder Eddie Rosario in the gap in left-center. But Bird held up -- unsure whether Rosario would catch it -- briefly thought about tagging up and made it only to third.
Carlos Beltran was intentionally walked to load the bases, and with five Twins in the infield playing in, Chase Headley smoked a grounder to short. Former Yankee Nuñez fumbled it before inexplicably throwing to first for the out as the winning run scored.
Joe Girardi, who ran through six relievers -- at least one move will have to be made Tuesday for bullpen reinforcements -- breathed a sigh of relief. He figured he had Andrew Miller, who pitched the 10th, for one more inning, then was going to turn to Tuesday night's starter, CC Sabathia. "I don't know what I have tomorrow," Girardi said, meaning bullpen arms. "But we won tonight."
One pitcher sure to be sent out Tuesday is rookie righty Caleb Cotham, who took over for Mitchell and allowed four runs (three earned) and six hits in two innings.
Beltran hit a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the score at 7-7. At that point, the Yankees had five hits to the Twins' 15 (Minnesota wound up with a 16-10 edge).
With runners at the corners, two outs and Nuñez batting in the second, Mitchell got ahead 0-and-2 and had the crowd buzzing. That changed in an instant.
Mitchell's next pitch was a 93-mph fastball and Nuñez lined it back at him, hitting him in the head. Mitchell crumpled to the ground as the ball continued into centerfield for a single that cut the Yankees' lead to 3-1.
Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue sprinted from the dugout to check on Mitchell, who soon was taken off the field.
"It was good to see him be able to walk off on his own," Headley said. "When the infielders went in there, we were able to hear him talking and he was calm and it seemed like he was doing pretty well for the circumstances. You could see the blood, but to hear him talk and to be able to walk off was helpful for us to try and move on as best we could."