Perfect games do not always have to end in zeros. The Yankees proved that with Wednesday's 4-3 victory over the Twins in the completion of a three-game sweep.
Nathan Eovaldi retired the first 16 batters, but didn't dwell on what might have been when his 2-0 lead and no-no turned into a 3-2 deficit in the sixth inning. He was rescued, as were the Yankees, in the bottom of the sixth when 22-year-old rookie first baseman Greg Bird took them, um, under his wings with his second two-run home run of the game.
"He did an awesome job today," said Eovaldi, who improved to 13-2 with his eighth straight victory. He was more elated for Bird than annoyed at his lapse. "Hits are going to fall, it could be home run or it could be a bloop hit. Perfect games are hard to come by, no-hitters are hard to come by."
Bird, playing for the injured Mark Teixeira, was playing in only his fifth game since being called up from Triple A. He is in this mode: "It's special," he said. "It's an honor to put on this uniform every day."
Bird's parents, Jim and Lee, nonchalantly watched him get his first big-league hit in Toronto this past weekend. He said they are the role models for his calm demeanor. They chauffeured him Wednesday to Yankee Stadium from their hotel and were on the field with him for players and kids day afterward. The kids ran the bases, something Bird already had done in the grown-up game.
Joe Girardi summed up Bird by saying, "He's got a slow heartbeat. He doesn't go out of his zone, he knows what he wants to do and has a plan. He executed really well today . . . I think it's in his DNA, especially at that age. You see some players but you don't see a ton of players. A lot of players have to learn how to slow the game down."
Bird's first major-league homer, a blast into the rightfield seats, came in the fourth off Ervin Santana after a two-out single by Carlos Beltran. "I haven't seen it," Bird said of the potential keepsake. And he didn't seem overly concerned.
The stage was unwittingly being set for Bird's second homer when the Twins got to Eovaldi in the sixth. With one out, Chris Herrmann blooped a single behind third to become the Twins' first baserunner and Shane Robinson followed with a single past short. Aaron Hicks grounded out but Brian Dozier walked to load the bases.
Joe Mauer singled in two runs and after Miguel Sano walked, Trevor Plouffe's slow roller toward Eovaldi went for an infield hit and scored the third run.
The Beltran-Bird formula worked again in the bottom of the inning as Beltran walked and Bird deposited Santana's pitch into the Yankees bullpen. "Hats off to him for those great at-bats in front of me," said Bird, who did get that home run ball returned to him.
Chase Headley said Bird has been the perfect fit. "You gotta have it coming from different places, it's hard when you are relying on one or two guys and obviously Tex has been a huge part of this this year," he said. "When he goes down, to have another guy come in and step up the way he did that's pretty impressive. His composure, his demeanor. You feel like he's been here six months already."
The guy is very calm, has a great presence about him, fits in."
Bird, who is 6-for-18 with five RBIs, received what he called his first-ever curtain call after the second homer. He had to be coaxed out of the dugout. "They're excited, I was excited," he said. "It's a good feeling."
Perhaps even perfect.