Jack Cust has 105 home runs in parts of 10 big-league seasons and 206 more in a minor-league career that dates to 1997. None of them have been hit in more bizarre circumstances than the moonshot he lofted high into the night sky late Friday night in Coca-Cola Field.
Leading off the bottom of the 10th inning, Cust took Buffalo Bisons reliever Edgar Ramirez deep on a 3-0 fastball to give the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees an 8-7 victory.
A walk-off victory. In Buffalo. Yep.
Scranton, remember, is playing all of its games on the road this year while PNC Field is being reconstructed and is spending this weekend batting as the home team. So when Cust's drive cleared the wall past the leap of Buffalo right fielder Matt Tuiasosopo, the Bisons were immediately toast.
But everyone seemed to forget about that for a second. Not many fans in the crowd of 6,808 got up for the exits (OK, so they were probably waiting for fireworks). Cust was just about at second base before any of the Yankees started to leave the dugout, realizing they could, in fact, have the mob scene at home that greets such a hit.
Even the hero forgot.
"It was a crazy long game," Cust said of the 3-hour, 43-minute affair. "I didn't know when I hit it that it was a walk-off. I wasn't thinking about that at all. I was just rounding the bases doing whatever, a regular homer. Then I saw their third baseman [Brad Emaus] leaving and I was like, 'Oh, bleep, it's a walk-off. Nice. We get to leave now.' "
"Well, that's different," acknowledged Buffalo manager Wally Backman. "It was just bad location on the pitch. We knew how we wanted to pitch him and we made a mistake."
Cust said he was hoping to get a good pitch on 3-0 and took advantage of the high fastball from Ramirez, who had retired the first six men he faced.
It was Scranton's third walk-off win of the year but first in someone else's park. The other two, against Durham and Columbus, came in Rochester's Frontier Field.
Cust was 3 for 5 in the game as the designated hitter and the home run was his fifth of the season. He was signed by the Yankees to a minor-league deal April 1 after getting released by Houston in spring training.
Cust had 84 home runs for Oakland from 2007-2009, including a career-high 33 for the Athletics in 2008. He spent most of last year with Seattle and is now part of the barnstorming Yankees, an odd situation for a 33-year-old to be in.
The Yankees, however, are defying the difficulties of their situation by posting a 25-21 record. Friday's win was their 15th come-from-behind job and came after the Bisons had taken a 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
"Wherever you're at on the field between the lines, you play to win," Cust said. "We have a great manager who's really doing the job. Dave Miley is one of the best I've played for, if not the best. You do your job, he treats everyone very fairly and we want to play hard for a guy like that.
"Guys are still hungry to get to the big leagues, whether you haven't been there or are like me and are trying to get back. You're not where you want to be so you just try to put all those other things out of your mind and do the best you can."
The Bisons didn't do their best with men on base in this one and it cost them. Buffalo went a ghastly 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on.
"We had tons of chances to score runs," Backman said. "The way the game went, we legitimately probably should have scored 13, 14, 15 runs. Even though we had the lead, when you have a lot of missed opportunities like that, they can come back to bite you.
"But 1 for 16. God, that's unacceptable. It really is. I can't even tell you what that percentage is because it's so bad."
Fred Lewis' solo homer to left, his first with the Herd, with one out in the seventh pushed Buffalo's lead to 7-5. The Bisons gave that edge away in the bottom of the inning as Scranton's Ronnier Mustelier pounded a two-run homer into the screen in left off reliever Pedro Beato, making his first injury rehab assignment with the Herd after arriving earlier in the day from Class A St. Lucie (Fla.). That made it 7-7.
The series continues today at 1:05 (Radio 1520 AM) as Buffalo lefty Garrett Olson (1-3) meets Scranton righty D.J. Mitchell (4-1).