So far in this series, the Twins are 0-2 when scoring first.
Chip Caray and Ron Darling can’t shut up about Carl Pavano, but check out who’s outpitching him.
The last playoff series our beloved Bombers won came five years ago, when they sent these same Minnesota Twins home for the winter with a win on their own (astro) turf. That series went four games, but this year’s version could end after three.
Standing in the way of the Yankees and an ALDS sweep is none other than Carl Pavano. In his four seasons with the Yankees, Pavano made just 26 starts and threw only 145.2 IP. This year, his first post-Bronx? Try 33 starts and 199.1 IP. Pavano called his four years in pinstripes a “black period,” but now the righthander has a chance to repay some of the $40M he stole from the Yanks by going out and throwing a clunker today.
It’s tough to expect another thrill-a-minute roller coaster like we had on Friday, but stranger things have happened. Here’s the lineups:
Derek Jeter, SS
Johnny Damon, LF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Hideki Matsui, DH
Jorge Posada, C
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Melky Cabrera, CF
Andy Pettitte, SP (14-8, 4.16)
Denard Span, CF
Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joe Mauer, C
Michael Cuddyer, 1B
Jason Kubel, RF
Delmon Young, LF
Brendan Harris, 3B
Jose Morales, DH
Nick Punto, 2B
Carl Pavano, SP (14-12, 5.10)
As you’ve surely already heard, the Angels beat the Red Sox tonight in Papelblown fashion, so the Halos await the winner of this series in the ALCS. TBS and Chip Caray once again have the call of this game, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07pm ET. Enjoy.
Ken Davidoff hit the nail on the head yesterday when he called Carl Pavano a symbol of the Yanks’ recent failures. In discussing the way the Yankees felt about Pavano, the $40 million man who made 26 starts over four years, and the approach to team-building during the latter part of the Torre Era, Davidoff called out the Yanks.
“The truth lies,” he writes, “not in choosing sides among friends-turned-enemies Cashman and Torre but in understanding what Pavano and his $39.95-million heist represented: a haphazard period during Cashman’s reign in which personnel decisions were driven by haste, emotions and a lack of appreciation for old-school background checks and new-wave statistical analysis.”
Davidoff notes how the Yanks of 2004 are a seemingly far cry from the Yanks of both the mid-1990s and this season. “If the Yankees had conducted better research on Pavano, perhaps they would’ve learned of a) his surliness; b) his stupidity; c) his bouts with apathy; and, most important, d) how the batting average on balls in play (BABiP) from his standout 2004 season – matched against his line-drive percentage that year – indicated that his numbers were boosted by luck,” he notes.
Baseball, it seems, is not without its dark sense of humor. In three hours, the Twins will put their season into the hands of one Carl Pavano and the Yanks will look to move on to the ALCS for the first time since signing Pavano. During the media gaggle yesterday, the Yankees danced around the topic of Pavano.
“He worked extremely hard and he tried the best he could,” Brian Cashman said. “Unfortunately too many times I’d get that phone call that we had a problem and it was one that needed to be surgically fixed, or required a lot of time to allow the healing process to take place.”
Current and former Yankees — Mike Mussina, in particular — were not afraid to criticize Carl, but this week, the attacks have been muted. The team knows not to get too far ahead of themselves, but how can they not think of sore buttocks, car crashes, broken ribs and arm surgery as they face off against a player who somehow made 33 starts this year and won 14 games, five more than during his entire Bronx tenure?
Maybe Carl can provide the Twins with a reprieve for a day, but the Yankees will be itching to put Pavano behind them today. No matter the outcome, it will be fitting to see him take the hill later today against the Yanks in a potential clinching game. Expected to lead them to this point, he did simply by not being here any longer.
On July 4, 1983, my parents were listening to the radio with their three-month-old son. It was a Monday afternoon, and Dave Righetti was on the mound for the Yanks. For nine innings, he dazzled the Sox, and his final line — 9 innings, no hits — was one for the ages. I don’t remember it, but that’s the day I became a baseball fan.
I started going to games when I was three or four and remember bits and pieces of my early years of baseball fandom. I loved going into Stan’s to get a new team hat. I collected yearbooks and learned how to keep score when I was six. I saw Bo Jackson break his bat and heard the news when George Steinbrenner was suspended. I watched the Yankees finish seventh in the AL East and followed the exploits of Wade Taylor, Scott Kamieniecki and Jeff Johnson as though they were actually good.
At some point in the mid-1990s, baseball stopped being something I enjoyed as a kid and began to be something akin to a religion. I soaked up games, stats, insight into baseball. I lived and died with the Yankees. A victory would brighten my mood until the next day while a loss would be heartbreaking. I still live and die through the Yanks that way.
In 1996, everything started going our way. After the crushing defeat in the 1995 ALDS, the Yankees began a magical run in Joe Torre’s first year at the helm and Derek Jeter’s first year at short. After a hiccup in 1997, the Yankees simply never lost in October. They ran through the Padres, the Braves, the Mets, the Rangers, the A’s, the Mariners, the Indians. Nothing — until Luis Gonzalez hit a perfectly placed ball past a drawn-in infield — could stop them.
As Gonzalez’s ball landed, the spell broke. Mystique and Aura would return for a night in October in 2003 when the Yankees rallied against Pedro Martinez and Aaron Boone became the next unlikely star amidst a series of frustrating postseasons. We know how 2004 turned out, how 2005 ended with a collision in center field, how 2006 was just ugly, how 2007 bugged us and how 2008? Well, last year, there was no October.
This year, though, the team stormed into the postseason with 103 wins, and when I had a chance to buy a ticket for Friday’s game, I leaped. Even though the ticket was a standing-row only spot behind section 229 down the third base line, I took the chance. I hadn’t seen a post-season game in person since Mike Mussina lost to Justin Verlander. It was time to get to the stadium.
The electricity coursed through the crowd on Friday from the start. Reggie received a warm welcome for the first pitch, and by 6:07 p.m., Yankee Stadium was stuffed to the gills. We roared at A.J. Burnett’s first-pitch strike and hung on every pitch. When A.J. threw a strike, the crowd went nuts. When a Yankee batter drew a ball, the crowd went nuts. 50,006 fans — the largest crowd at Yankee Stadium this year — came expecting a win.
For 11 innings, the Yankees made it tough. The Twins had runners on in every inning, and every Yankee reliever gave up a hit or a walk. We kept waiting with nervous anticipation for the Twins to get that big hit, but it never came. Meanwhile, the Yanks mustered nothing against Nick Blackburn.
After the steady Phil Hughes and the great Mariano Rivera faltered a bit in the 8th, the crowd noticeably deflated. Ten minutes later, the energy was back. Mark Teixeira ripped a single, and we wanted A-Rod. Alex delivered with a booming home run, 433 feet into the night. The crowd was bouncing; the stadium was shaking; and I high-fived people I had never seen before.
As the extra innings battle waged, the atmosphere grew tense. The Twins had bases loaded, no body out, and David Robertson, two weeks removed from an injury, was pitching for our lives. I paced back and forth, discovering that standing room certainly had that advantage over the tight seats of the tier. A line drive, and my heart dropped. But Teixeira snared it for an out. A ground ball, but Teixeira came home for an out. A fly ball, but right into the mitt of Brett Gardner. I had never been so nervous at a game, and somehow, the Yanks were alive.
Mark Teixeira made it all better. With one swing of the bat, one twirl of the umpire’s hand, one ball into the left field stands, the tense emotion of watching the game unfold disappeared. I leaped; I took a few deep breathed; and I just stood there to watch. I couldn’t move as the Yanks celebrated at the plate. I didn’t leave until Frank finished two verses, until the highlights played on the big screen and A.J. delivered the customary pie.
After suffering through the heart attack 11th inning, Teixeira brought upon a baseball euphoria that made it all worth it. Tears of joy were streaming down fans’ faces, and I started walking out of the stadium after one of — if not the — best games I had ever seen in person. This was October. This was baseball.
Joe Mauer is one of the major reasons why people are uncertain about Jesus Montero’s future behind the plate. At 6’5″, Mauer is one of the tallest catchers in the history of the game, and it shows. He caught only 109 games this year, and his body suffers through the wear and tear of the season rather poorly. Today, he told reporters that he is hurting. Apparently, a sore hip flexor is why he did not score from second on Michael Cuddyer’s single in the 11th inning last night. As David Pinto noted, the Twins could go with Jose Morales behind the plate tomorrow and bench Jason Kubel while Mauer DHs. Although I don’t wish to see any opponent get injured, a Joe Mauer at less than 100 percent certainly benefits the Yanks.
Two days after the Yankees and Twins kicked off their Division Series matchup, the clubs finally came together to give Game Two a go. Regular catcher Jorge Posada would ride the bench in favor of backup Jose Molina, who had demonstrated the ability to work well with starter AJ Burnett in recent starts. The Yanks were looking to take a commanding lead in the series while the Twinkies were hoping to keep their playoff heads above water. One team got their wish, but not before they rode the roller coaster you see above.
Starters Burnett and Nick Blackburn matched zeroes for the first five innings, but did so in very different ways. Burnett, with his personal catcher in tow, walked a tight rope all night. He put at least one runner on base in all six innings he pitched, and seven of the ten batters he let reach base didn’t even have to swing the bat. It’s not normally a recipe for success, but it did the trick tonight. Blackburn, on the other hand, kept the Yankees hitters off balance all night with a mix of sinkers and curveballs and changeups, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
Minnesota drew first blood in the top of the sixth, when Burnett issued a walk to Delmon Young, who had drawn a grand total of 14 unintentional walks in 416 plate appearances this year. After Carlos Gomez struck out, predictably, pinch hitter Brendan Harris took Burnett’s 3-1 fastball and sent it deep into the left-centerfield. Teh bandbox managed to hold this one in, but the Twins were on the board thanks to a triple.
The Yankees would not be contained for long, answering back the very next inning. The Cap’n ground ruled a double into right center, and Johnny Damon followed that up with a walk to put runners at first and second with one out for the guys paid to drive in runs. Mark Teixeira, 0 for 6 in the series up to that point, flied out weakly to left, which brought last night’s hero – one Alex Rodriguez – to the plate. A-Rod spit on Blackburn’s first slider in the dirt, then send his next pitch through the 5.5 hole for an RBI single, knotting the game at one. Two games, three ribbies for the Yanks’ cleanup hitter, and he wasn’t done.
Burnett gave way to starter turned reliever turned starter turned reliever after an injury turned starter then turned reliever for the playoffs Joba Chamberlain, who got two quick ground ball outs before allowing a hit back up the middle to SuperMauer. Phil Coke came in and struck out Jason Kubel, who hits lefties like Jose Molina hits everyone. On came setup man Phil Hughes the next inning, who made quick work of Michael Cuddyer and Young. Carlos Gomez, a kid who has drawn just 47 unintentional walks in 963 plate appearances over the last two seasons, coaxed a free pass out of Hughes with two outs. Harris then laced his second hit of the night into the opposite field for a single, sending the speedy Gomez the third. Seven pitches later, #9 hitter Nick Punto looping a hanging curve in front of centerfield Melky Cabrera for a 2-1 lead.
Out went St. Phil and in came the Hammer of God, but Denard Span didn’t think much of the future Hall of Famer and singled to right to push the lead to two runs. Rivera escaped the inning without allowing any further damage, but the good guys were down two with ubercloser Joe Nathan looming in Minnesota’s pen.
An inning later, the Yanks were down those same two runs with just three outs to go against Nathan, and things looked bleak. Teixeira, now 0 for 7 in the series, took the first two pitches leading off the inning before lining a hard single down into the right field corner. With an RBI single already to his credit in the game, A-Rod came to plate needing to do anything besides make an out. He did that and then some.
The first pitch was a breaking ball in the dirt, the second a breaking ball off the plate, ditto the third. With a 3-0 count after three pitches well off the plate, it seemed like the Twins were pitching around the three time AL MVP, however it didn’t make sense to do so in that spot. The fourth pitch was a fastball down and in, called for a strike. Great pitch, no way any righthanded batter hits that ball with any authority. 3-1 is a classic fastball count and A-Rod certainly got his fastball, crushing it to deep into the Yankees bullpen to tie the game. In a Yankee career full of postseason disappointments, Rodriguez atoned for all past mistakes with that one swing. The game was tied, and the Yankees had new lease on life in the game.
The Bombers came up to the plate in the 10th looking to start a rally, and Jorge Posada did just that when he blooped a Nathan pitch in for a single. On came pinch runner extraordinaire Brett Gardner, who stole second before moving to third when Nathan tossed a pickoff throw into centerfield. Derek Jeter was intentionally walked to set up the double play, and the Yanks were in business with runners on the corners and just one out. Johnny Damon, mired in a month long slump, took the first four pitches from reliever Jose Mijares before fouling a pitch off for a full count. Mijares’ next offered was lined back up the middle, and it seemed like the Yanks were on their way to another walk-off win and a 2-0 series lead. Except Orlando Cabrera caught it, and Brett Gardner ventured too far off third. O-Cab made the quick flip over to double off Gardner, and the Yankee threat was squashed.
Damaso Marte march out the pen to take the rubber in the top of the 11th. Placed on the ALDS roster for two reasons and two reasons only, Marte allowed both of them to reach base. Joe Girardi turned to young David Robertson with SuperMauer and Jason Kubel standing at first and second with no outs, and K-Rob™ hung a curve to Michael Cuddyer, which he promptly dunked into the outfield to load the bases with zero outs.
Plate discipline is a wonderful thing. It’s not all about drawing walks and working deep counts, it’s about being selective and knowing what pitches to swing at. Luckily for the Yankees and Mr. Robertson, neither Delmon Young nor Carlos Gomez has much plate discipline. Young lined the first pitch he saw to Mark Teixeira for out number one, then Gomez grounded to Tex, who forced the runner at home for out number two. With two gift outs in his pocket, Robertson needed to coax an out anyway he could out of Brendan Harris, who up to that point had been a pretty big pain in the Yankees’ ass. The first pitch was a fastball strike, the second a fastball low for a 1-1 count. D-Rob’s third fastball was lifted in the air by Harris, but landed safely in the glove of new centerfielder Brett Gardner. Bases loaded, no outs, and the Yanks escaped unscathed.
Even though the Yanks staff had kept them in the game, the pitching tonight was downright dreadful for the pinstripers. The Twins 6-7-8-9 hitters reached base a combined ten times, and 15 of Minny’s 21 baserunners overall reached base with two outs in the inning. No Yankee pitcher managed to retire the side in order. The Yankees can’t count on the opposing team stranding 17 runners on base every night, but for tonight it was just what the doctor ordered.
After David Robertson pulled his Houdini act in the 11th, the Yanks were looking to their heart of their order to give them the win. Mark Teixeira led off the inning for his second straight plate appearance, and four pitches into his at-bat he sent Jose Mijares’ offering into the people beyond the leftfield wall. The Yankees won in walk-off and comeback fashion yet again, and declared to not just the Twins, but to all of baseball that WE WILL NOT BE STOPPED.