As Mike from RAB pointed out last night, cycles occur about as often as no-hitters, but are in fact much rarer considering only one pitcher per team has a chance to throw a no-hitter in each game, whereas nine batters per team have a chance at a cycle. Coincidentally, there have been roughly the same amount of "natural" cycles, which is achieved by hitting 1B, 2B, 3B, HR in order (14), as there have been perfect games (18). Only three players have ever hit for more than two cycles, Babe Herman, Bob Meusel and John Reilly, with three apiece.
Despite the fact that a cycle doesn't have a perfect correlation to value within the context of the game, Melky's triple in the 9th inning was one of the most exciting moments of the season, in my eyes. So often, we hear the announcers point out that a player is "only a triple short of the cycle" when of course even a great triples hitter would only have maybe a 1 in 50 or 60 chance to hit one in that specific plate appearance. The odds were considerably longer for Melky, who hadn't hit a triple in over a year and before that not since August 25, 2007. That's one three-bagger in over 850 PAs... you do the math.
Just last week it appeared that Robinson Cano had a pretty good chance at a cycle, when he had notched a triple and a home run by the sixth inning. Alas, he did get two more plate appearances but only managed to walk and fly out to center. For him, walking twice in the same game was quite rare, but Tony Fernandez's 14 year old achievement still stood.
Until yesterday. Over the 289 cycles that have been recorded I'm guessing that Melky's .381 WPA would rank pretty high up on that list. The Yankees' offense as a whole only contributed .457. He drove in four runs and scored three, directly contributing to the 6 of the Yankees' 8 runs. He put them up 3-0 with a 3 run homer in the second, scored the tying run in the 4th after Sabathia gave back the lead, put the Yanks ahead 5-4 in the 5th with a single and scored a big insurance run in the 9th, stretching the lead from 2 to 3.
Michael Kay said that the game was "too close to take a chance" in reference to going for a triple on a ball hit into the gap when Melky was up in the 9th, but the Melk Man motored into third and beat the throw by the slimmest of margins.
Baseball has a lot of quiet moments in between pitches, innings and at bats. There are a lot of lopsided games where the outcomes are seemingly already determined in the ninth inning. It's not often that a play in baseball reaches such an extended crescendo, with a 270 foot sprint, capped by a slide successful by only a split second. Remember this one because they might be mentioning it during Yankees games for a long, long time.