Melky hits for cycle in Chicago
Cabrera first Yankees hitter to achieve feat since 1995
CHICAGO -- Melky Cabrera put his head down and turned on the gas rounding second base, beating the relay throw and winning his foot race against history with a head-first dive into third base.
Cabrera legged out a ninth-inning triple to complete the Yankees' first cycle since Tony Fernandez in 1995 and polish off a banner four-hit, four-RBI afternoon, leading New York to a 8-5 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
"I feel really happy, but I'm more happy because we won the game," Cabrera said through an interpreter.
The 15th cycle in franchise history began in the second inning, when Cabrera teed off on White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle for a three-run homer that landed in the left-field bullpen.
"He got us started with that three-run homer, and to be able to end it with that cycle is really special," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's not something you see every day. He had a big day offensively before that, and to be able to do that, Melky was outstanding."
Cabrera then led off the fourth inning with a double to right-center, beating the throw in with a head-first slide into second base, and added a RBI single to left-center that scored Alex Rodriguez and chased Buehrle in the fifth.
"It happens," Buehrle said. "I made a bad pitch on a hanging changeup on the home run, and then a curveball, a decent pitch, just stuck with it. I maybe made one good pitch to him, a fastball in that he blooped into center. It was just one of those days."
A sixth-inning groundout was the only blemish on Cabrera's afternoon, as he dug in for his final at-bat in the ninth.
With his teammates on the top step of the dugout, Cabrera got good wood on a Scott Linebrink offering, drilling a line drive in the air to right field. In the dugout, the Yankees gasped, knowing there was a chance.
"Everyone was pulling for him," Derek Jeter said. "It's kind of difficult. You can't say, 'Let me go up there and try to hit a triple.' I think everyone in the dugout was running right there with him."
White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye started in and took a poor route to the ball. The hit rocketed over his head and bounced against the fence, making a fortunate kick toward the right-field side as Dye struggled to chase it down.
Seeing this, Cabrera accelerated. At this point, it was triple or nothing.
"When I saw the ball go over the outfielder, I was thinking triple," Cabrera said.
Sliding head-first into third base just ahead of Gordon Beckham's tag, Cabrera beamed as the center-field video board relayed his accomplishment and his teammates went wild in the dugout.
"It's great. I don't remember seeing one," closer Mariano Rivera said. "It was special. I was telling him, 'Go! Go! Don't stop at second base.' Whatever happens, go."
"Everyone was jumping up and down, clapping, cheering," Nick Swisher said. "We're just really happy for him. Not many people get a chance to do that. That's the first time I've ever seen [a cycle] in person. It's just an awesome thing."
Cabrera's historic 4-for-5 afternoon was no fluke. Since the Yankees placed Brett Gardner on the disabled list on July 26 with a fractured left thumb, Cabrera has stepped up to play at a high level, batting .357 (10-for-28) with two homers and five RBIs in eight games.
"The manager told me I'm going to play every day, so now I'm prepared mentally and physically every day to be ready," Cabrera said.
Though his recent history with the Yankees has been pockmarked by disappointments -- being sent down to the Minor Leagues last August and losing a Spring Training battle with Gardner to be New York's center fielder -- Cabrera has been playing like he has something to prove.
"I'm proud of how he has changed and taken his game to a different level," Rivera said. "I think what happened last year, he got sent down for a little bit [and] it taught him a little bit that you cannot just come and play around. This is business, and he has a lot of ability. Why not use it? He's doing that right now."
Rodriguez agreed, saying that he believes that Cabrera has found new focus and wants to show he is capable of handling everyday duty in the Yankees outfield.
"He's a different guy," Rodriguez said. "He's much stronger, in much better condition. He's worked every day in the [weight] room. You can just tell. He actually told me before the game that he was going to go deep.
"That kind of confidence is great. ... He really wants the job, and you can tell that he really is upset when he doesn't play. He's hungry to go out and make a difference, and he is [doing that]."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.