Derek Jeter Proves Most Valuable As Yankees Topple Twins in Game One

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Derek Jeter Proves Most Valuable As Yankees Topple Twins in Game One
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Everything changed in the bottom of the third inning.

When Derek Jeter stepped to the plate with the Yankees trailing 2-0 to the Twins in Game One of the American League Division Series, a lot of questions were racing through the minds of Yankees fans.

Why has our opponent scored first for the ninth time in our last 12 playoff games? Why has Alex Rodriguez failed to pick up a hit in his last 18 postseason at-bats with runners in scoring position and past 28 with runners anywhere on base?

Why is Jorge Posada using his chest protector instead of his glove to catch fastballs from CC Sabathia? Why does Delmon Young look so much like Jay-Z? Are we really going to lose to a bunch of hungover, jet-lagged players from the AL Central?

And then, with one un-Jeterian swing, the captain eased the tension in the Yankee Universe.

The shortstop turned on a 1-0 pitch from Brian Duensing and tied the score with a two-run homer—just his third third round-tripper to left field in 2009.

All of a sudden, the Bombers were no longer trailing, A-Rod was driving in runs in the playoffs, Posada and Sabathia were on the same page, Delmon Young still looked like Jay-Z, and New York was beating Minnesota, 7-2, to take a 1-0 series lead.

This is nothing new for Jeter, who always seems to deliver when the team needs him the most. So while Joe Mauer may win the AL Most Valuable Player Award for this season, Yankees fans know who really is the MVP.

Here are the grades from Yanks' win over the Twins on Wednesday night.

Joe Girardi, Manager: (A-)
Girardi did a pretty good job in his first playoff game as Pinstripes skipper. He sent the runner a couple times in order to stay out of the double play, and he knew exactly the right time to pull Sabathia.

Then, he got a little carried away. The manager used four relievers to get the final seven outs despite the fact the Yankees had a comfortable lead. Maybe Girardi wanted to get everyone acclimated to pitching in the postseason, but he was lucky none of the relievers experienced a big blow-up, because then they would've been short-handed in the bullpen if the game got tight.

 

Derek Jeter, SS: (A+)
In addition to his huge homer, the captain singled, walked twice and scored three runs.

 

Johnny Damon, LF: (C-)
Damon, who hit .235 in September, singled in four at-bats.

 

Mark Teixeira, 1B: (D+)
Teixeira scorched a couple balls, but hit into some bad luck and finished 0-for-4. He did, however, make a nice grab on a line drive off the bat of Jason Kubel in the eighth inning.

 

Alex Rodriguez, 3B: (A)
A-Rod snapped out of his postseason slump, picking up RBI singles in the fifth and seventh. He also made a couple nice plays at third base.

 

Hideki Matsui, DH: (A)
Godzilla's two-run homer in the fifth broke the game open.

 

Jorge Posada, C: (D)
Posada went 1-for-4, but the real story was how he played behind the plate. The catcher and Sabathia got crossed up twice, leading to a couple of passed balls—one of which Mauer scored on for the second run in the third inning, when Posada failed to hustle after the ball. 

I can't imagine why A.J. Burnett wants to pitch to Jose Molina in Game 2. Now, Posada can go back to moping until he's inserted as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning on Friday.

 

Robinson Cano, 2B: (D+)
Cano was 0-for-4 with a strikeout, but he scored a run and made a couple of outstanding defensive plays: a sweet double-play turn in the third and one of his patented off-balance throws to first later in the game.

 

Nick Swisher, RF: (B+)
Swisher delivered one of the biggest hits of the game: a two-out RBI double that put the Yankees ahead, 3-2, in the fourth.

Melky Cabrera, CF-RF: (C)
Cabrera singled and scored in four at-bats.

 

Brett Gardner, CF: (INC)
Gardner replaced Swisher for defensive purposes.

 

CC Sabathia, SP: (A)
The big lefty entered with a 2-3 record and a 7.92 ERA in five career postseason starts, but he pitched just about as well as the Yankees hoped he would when they signed him to a seven-year, $161 million contract this past offseason. Sabathia allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits and no walks, while striking out eight over 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win.

 

Phil Hughes, RP: (A-)
The right-hander recorded one of the biggest outs of the game when he struck out Orlando Cabrera in an epic 10-pitch at-bat with runners on second and third with two gone in the seventh.

 

Phil Coke, RP: (C)
I'm not sure why Girardi let Hughes face AL batting champion Mauer (a lefty), but took him out for fellow southpaw Kubel.  Coke was lucky to retire Kubel on a line drive right at Teixeira.

 

Joba Chamberlain, RP: (B+)
After his two pitches Wednesday, Joba won't be available again until August.

 

Mariano Rivera, RP: (B-)
With a five-run lead, Mo retired three of the five batters he faced. Hooray!

 

Yankees Overall Grade: (B+)
Led by Jeter, New York did what it did all season—come from behind to win. Let's see if the Yanks can lead wire-to-wire when Burnett squares off against Nick Blackburn in Game Two on Friday.

 

Follow me on Twitter at JordanHarrison.

Jordan Schwartz is Bleacher Report's New York Yankees Community Leader. His book "Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man" is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com

Jordan can be reached at jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com

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