Late Inning Magic Resides at 161st and River…
Barton Silverman/The New York Times
As the saying goes, “All’s well that ends well”! Friday night certainly proved the point as the Yankees defeated the Minnesota Twins 4-3 in Game 2 of the ALDS.
The game featured a pitching duel between A.J. Burnett and Nick Blackburn. It was scoreless until the 6th inning. The Twins broke out first in the top of the frame on a run-scoring triple by Brendan Harris.
The Yankees countered in the bottom of the inning when Alex Rodriguez singled to score Derek Jeter from second.
At that point, the Yankees went to the pen. Joba Chamberlain retired the first two batters in the top of the 7th, but surrendered a single to Joe Mauer. He was relieved by Phil Coke who struck out Jason Kubel to end the inning.
After a ’3-up, 3-down’ bottom of the 7th, Phil Hughes was on the mound to start the 8th. Like Chamberlain, he retired the first two batters but then got into trouble. After walking Carlos Gomez, Brendan Harris singled to move Gomez to third. Nick Punto followed with a single that scored Gomez, and Hughes headed for the showers at Joe Girardi’s “suggestion”.
Mariano Rivera entered the game but he promptly gave up a single to Denard Span that scored Harris. Mo struck out the next batter, Orlando Cabrera, to end the inning but the damage had been done as the Twins had taken a 3-1 lead.
The Yankees were retired easily in the 8th, and Mo had no difficulty with the Twins in the top of the 9th despite a Michael Cuddyer single. So, the stage was set for the bottom of the 9th inning. Enter Twins closer Joe Nathan…
Mark Teixeira was up first and he lined a solid single to right. That brought the much criticized post-season “underperformer” to the plate. A-Rod silenced his critics by coming up big. His home run off Nathan tied the game, and the Yanks were back in business.
Nathan retired the next 3 batters so the game moved to extra innings. The Twins had a chance in the top of the 10th against Alfredo Aceves but they left runners stranded at the corners.
The Yankees followed with what I thought was going to be the victorious moment. After Melky Cabrera grounded out, Jorge Posada singled. Of course, that brought Mr. “Make It Happen” (Brett Gardner) into the game as a pinch runner. When you talk about certainties in life, Brett getting his jersey dirty when he is on the base paths is a given. As expected, he stole second with a huge burst of speed. An errant pick off throw by Nathan sent Gardner to third although he did stumble to make it close. So, with just one out, the speedy Gardner stood at third. It wouldn’t take much to bring him home. With Gardner on third, the Twins opted to intentionally walk Derek Jeter. Nathan was relieved by Jose Mijares. The stage was set for Johnny Damon to be the hero. If he couldn’t get the job done, Mark Teixeira was on deck. Much to my chagrin, Damon hit a smash right at Orlando Cabrera. Brett Gardner had already broken for home, so the Twins were able to easily record the double play to end the threat.
The next inning would prove to be very memorable. Joe Mauer opened with a double to left off Damaso Marte except there was a small problem. The umpire (Phil Cuzzi) ruled the ball foul, however, replays clearly showed that the ball landed a foot inside of the foul line.
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Nevertheless, Joe Mauer was still able to reach base with a single. But his placement at first instead of second would prove to be very significant. Jason Kubel singled to move Mauer to second (he should have been on third if the double had stood). David Robertson, boyish face and all, entered the game in relief of Marte but gave up a single to Michael Cuddyer which loaded the bases. Had Mauer been on third, the Twins would have taken a 4-3 lead. Robertson proved to be a magician with the next 3 batters. Delmon Young lined out. Carlos Gomez hit a fielder’s choice to Mark Teixeira who threw Mauer out at home. Brendan Harris, with several key hits earlier in the game, came up with a chance to save the day for the Twins. But his weak fly ball was caught by Nick Swisher and the Twins had failed to score despite loading the bases with no outs.
With Jose Mijares still pitching for the Twins, Mark Teixeira came to the plate. As great as Teixeira has been this year, it is hard to believe that he didn’t have any walk-off hits during the course of the season…well, at least until Friday night. He connected on what appeared to be an extremely hard liner but the ball never dropped until it reached the left field stands. After the game, Teixeira called the ball a “wall scraper”. Whatever it was, it gave the Yankees the 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.
Have a pie, Mr. Teixeira! You deserve it…
I have to admit that I do empathize with Twins fans. During football season, the majority of those fans share my passion for all things purple and gold. We cheer together when Adrian Peterson breaks a long run for a TD, Percy Harvin makes a key catch, Brett Favre zips a pass for a game winning touchdown or Jared Allen getting up from sacking yet another quarterback. The Twins had every opportunity to win Game 2, but the ghosts of Yankee Stadium ensured that it didn’t happen.
Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger
The series now moves to Minnesota for Game 3 at the Metrodome on Sunday. Andy Pettitte and the Yankees will face former teammate Carl Pavano. I remember the comparisons of Pavano to Pettitte when he joined the Yankees, as they are both similar physically. But clearly Pavano does not have Pettitte’s heart. The Yanks have a chance to close out the series and it wouldn’t get any better than a victory against the former American Idle.
A funny thing happened last night watching the Angels-Red Sox game. I have been giving Julia (of Julia’s Rants) a hard time and repeatedly telling her “Go Angels!”. But truth be told, I really do not like the Angels. I have never cared for the team. It’s not to say that I have found new love for the Red Sox, but I found myself cheering for Boston and rooting for a late inning comeback. It was not meant to be as the Angels emerged with a 4-1 victory against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox to take a 2-0 advantage in the series. I will pull for the Red Sox when the series resumes in Boston. I really want to see the Red Sox and Yankees in the American League Championship Series. I have no desire to see a team that couldn’t win 90 games in the World Series, so I wouldn’t pull for the Twins if they are able to successfully overcome the Yankees in the ALDS. My dislike for the Angels would prevent me from cheering for them, so the only two choices in my mind are Yankees and Red Sox. As a member of the AL Eastern Division, the Red Sox would be my second choice for AL representatives in the World Series if the Yankees cannot be there. I hope that doesn’t happen, believe me, as I am hoping to see the 27th World Championship for the Yankees…and nothing would be better than beating the Red Sox to advance. So, Julia, I’ll say this for you, Go Red Sox! (statement expires at the conclusion of the Angels-Red Sox series).
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Speaking of the Minnesota Vikings, I’d like to say Happy Birthday to quarterback Brett Favre! The graybeard is now 40 years old. For your birthday, we’d like to give you a Super Bowl Championship! J
Courtesy Star Tribune