The common refrain going around the Yankee fan base right now is that while nothing is guaranteed, and that the Yankees are not guaranteed to win their series against the Twins, there is a different feel around this year's squad than there has been in many years. This team is likable, fun to root for and really damned good.
So nevermind CC Sabathia's less-than-stellar post-season ERA or Alex Rodriguez's absence of a decent post-season since the 2004 ALCS.
This is a team where expectations are not just high for the free agents signees who make more in a year than some entire countries, but for those who have played only for the Yankees and those who came to the Yankees in unheralded trades.
The team won 103 games in the regular season, and one or two players can't win 103 games all on their own. Though, God knows Albert Pujols tried.
As with any beginning, there are opening ceremonies of a sort. With the ALDS it's nothing too spectacular...full line ups and guys in uniform, but it's somewhat muted. It's good to be here, but there's still a while to go before the grand prize.
When the players are introduced, some receive particularly loud accolades (like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter) while others receive, well, lots of non-accolades. Like Carl Pavano.
Because of the odd start time, the Stadium was still fairly empty as the lineups were being announced.
By the time the first pitch was thrown, however, almost every seat was filled.
The National Anthem always seems to add a sense of "this is it, this is what we live for."
As the Yankees take the field, there is a rush of excitement. As stated earlier, if you're a fan at that Stadium at that time, you're either way amped up, or you're dead.
With no other game going on at the present moment, the scoreboard instead displays the line up of both teams, highlighting the next batter to come to bat.
The blazing lights against the sunset make for an auspicious early game atmosphere.
The Twins took an early 2-0 lead that could have never have been: had a close pitch been called a strike three, CC Sabathia would have gotten out of the inning. Instead, a couple hits and a passed ball, and the Twins had a 2-0 lead.
That lead was, however, short lived.
Reason A: Derek Jeter
Jeter has done a lot of great things in his career and is something of an immortal among Yankee fans. Hitting a left-field home run to tie a game? Awesome. And in the post-season? Well, there's only one Derek Jeter.
Hit a home run like that, then hear the entire Stadium erupt in chants of M-V-P! M-V-P! (Yes, we know it's going to Mauer. No, we don't care.)
Meanwhile, Sabathia must have been somewhat mindful of his rapidly escalating pitch count: he settled down and started to deal.
Despite having over 70 pitches after the fourth inning, Sabathia pitched into the seventh inning and did not walk a single batter.
The Twins were the first to go to their bullpen--by this time the Yankees had already taken the lead.
Who did the Twins call upon?
I swear I'm not making this up.
Not too long afterwards, Hideki Matsui hit a home run...the type that screams HEY, YAY INSURANCE RUNS! My friend Brent summed up our reactions pretty well.
With two outs in the seventh inning and the Yankees with a four-run lead, Joe Girardi did the prudent thing and went to the bullpen before Sathia's pitch count approached abusive levels. He left to a raucous ovation.
In came Young Master Hughes.
There was a massive Orlando Cabrera at bat just to end the seventh inning, but Hughes got the job done, and instead of having to face Joe Mauer with the bases loaded, Joe Mauer came up in the 8th with no one on.
This is the only game I've ever been to where I've actually heard people sing "God Bless America".
It was a stirring rendition courtesy of the NY Pops
This is just a really awesome late-game shot:
Out went Phil Hughes, and in came Joba Chamberlain. Phil Coke also made an appearance and had the best possible appearance for a reliever: one pitch, one out. It was nearly a double play, but Mauer was just a shade too nimble for Teixeira.
With a five run lead (and here it should be noted that two of these runs, yes two are the direct responsibility of Alex Rodriguez, something you haven't seen in an October write up for a while) it perhaps seems strange that the Yankees bring in their closer, but this is October. You don't take chances.
Enter Sandman. Exit Twins.
Magic number, that real magic number that all Yankee fans really care about, is now down to 10.
And we'll see you Friday night!
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