The Minnesota Twins try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands (and bats) of the juggernaut New York Yankees. Will their heartbreaking loss Friday night affect their performance tonight?
Highly unlikely as the Twins have fought back many times this season. This was a team which was down seven games to first place Detroit in September before fighting back to win Game 163.
Top 1st: The Yankees go quietly as Carl Pavano throws first pitch strikes to Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira. We have seen this scenario many times before by the Yankees, seeing exactly what the pitcher has before they unload the second and third time through the order.
Bottom 1st: Pettitte only throws 12 pitches, but Orlando Cabrera poses his usual pesky self as he works his usual long at-bat. Joe Mauer grounds out meekly to second base on a cutter away.
I have noticed Mauer has reached a few times this series at breaking pitches away. I wonder if the Yankees advanced scouts noticed this trend or has Mauer's sore hip affected his swings at those pitches?
Top 2nd: Pavano still dealing first pitch fastball strikes. If the Yankees are going to take those first pitches, why not throw them down the middle and get ahead?
I have been doing research on the working-the-count method of at-bats popularized by today's teams versus the aggressive method of hitting. The old method of getting the starting pitcher out of the game was to be aggressive and knock him out of the box with a barrage of hits. Now it is to get his pitch count up.
While all the work is not completed, it is interesting to note that most hitters who go after the first pitch usually have high OPS numbers in those at-bats. Much higher numbers.
Bottom 2nd: Only nine pitches for Pettitte as he sets the Twins down in order again. Delmon Young swings at the first pitch a lot. Problem is that he swings at a lot of out of the strike zone first pitches. He gets himself out too much. Probably not a real good BABIP for him.
Guess he is just unlucky. LOL.
Top 3rd: Great job by Pavano changing speeds on first pitch to Cano. Most of his first pitches have been fastballs, but he changed up on Robbie.
Pavano is really looking good early on. Melky bounces one up the middle and it's snared by Punto, but his attempt to throw to first is hampered by his face-first dive into the fake grass.
I wonder how those little black rubber pellets taste? Seriously, it was a great attempt by Punto, who doesn't have all the high tech stats which support his roster spot, but he is a really good baseball player who helps his team win in so many ways.
Bottom 3rd: No much for the Twins. Doesn't seem like Morales is much of a hitter. Although he is almost a .400 hitter for his career, there is not much pop. I guess his great splits against lefties, and Tolbert now being out of the series, gets him a start at DH.
Top 4th: Damon takes way too many good pitches. Looks like he is over-thinking at the plate. Someone asked Yogi Berra what he thought about at the plate, for which he replied, "Nothing. I can't think and hit at the same time."
Wow, that pitch to Tex for a called strike three was way high. The Yankees are making Pavano look like Bob Gibson—without the velocity and nasty slider.
Bottom 4th: That is 12 straight for Pettitte. Mauer once again swings meekly at a cutter away for a strikeout. That was a tough pitch for anyone to handle.
Top 5th: Matsui gets a break on a call (could have easily been 0-2) and singles up the middle on the next pitch. Posada then lines a shot to left that Young snared with a nice, sliding catch. Left field line umpire did not miss that call.
Cano lines a one hop shot right to Cuddyer at first for an unassisted double play by the Twins first baseman. You don't often see that. Might have been better for Matsui to go back to the first base bag when Cuddyer scooped up that ball. Tough call either way as Hideki was trying not to get hit by the ball if it escaped the first baseman.
Although there are now three outs and inning over, the Yankees have begun to put good wood on the ball against Pavano.
Bottom 5th: What do they say? A player makes a great play in the field and he always seems to lead off the next inning. Cuddyer singles sharply to left to break up the perfecto.
Nothing he can do about that, though, as Cano should have stopped Jason Kubel's hard ground ball. Another great play by Swisher to throw out Cuddyer at second base. Although Swisher was helped out by the speedy turf getting him the ball quickly, HE DID REALLY HUSTLE forward to get the ball and throw quickly to second base.
There is Delmon Young going after another out-of-the-strike-zone first pitch. BABIP be damned.
Top 6th: Jeter stokes a two-out double that touches the right field line. Twins fans give the umpire a chorus of boos as he gets the call correct. As I mentioned in another piece, that blown call really didn't matter too much to Friday night's game end result.
As I said a few innings ago, Johnny Damon is taking too many good pitches for called strikes. His confidence at the plate looks shot.
Bottom 6th: That was a tough walk to Cabrera after Span's single and stolen base. You knew once Span got on base, he would be on second quickly.
With Mauer coming up, can Andy get him again away with the cutter?
Nope, Mauer slices a sharply hit single through the hole between short and third to plate— the first run of the game. That ball was on the inner third of the plate and Mauer hit it with authority the other way. Great piece of hitting.
That run is looming large as Pavano is keeping the potent Yankees bats at bay. Pettitte whiffs Cuddyer on some really bad swings to end the inning. Glad he whiffed there or his BABIP would have taken a beating if he put one of those out-of-the-zone pitches into play.
Top 7th: Alex does it again!!! He has immense power the other way. There is no way anyone can ever say that Alex cannot hit in the playoffs—at least they can't say that about hitting against the Twins in the playoffs.
And Posada, too, the other way. Looks like Young could have had that ball, but it lands in the stands.
With the lead now, it will be interesting to see how Joe Girardi plays the last three innings. Stay with the very effective Pettitte or go to the bullpen? I say stay with the starter. You already know how he is pitching.
Do you really want to put it in the hands of Joba Chamberlain?
Bottom 7th: Pettitte looks great in getting Kubel swinging. But, even though he has only allowed one run on three hits and has virtually dominated the Twins lineup, Girardi is pulling him mid-inning in favor of Joba.
I don't like it at all, especially with Young coming up next who Pettitte has gotten very easily twice this game—on only two pitches!
Again, why take out your starter who is dominating the game?
There might be a negative factor in that managers start to rely on their bullpen too much. It seems like Girardi has fallen into this trap.
But, despite a double by Young off of Joba, he gets out of further trouble. Another good Jeter positioning play as he covers third on that ball Alex grabs in the third base hole. Alex bobbled the ball but shows off his tremendous throwing arm—you know the one that always seems to have an attractive woman attached to it when he is not throwing out base runners.
Great scoop by Tex, too.
Morales K's to end the inning. Missing badly at a slider in the dirt. He stinks and it was a mistake to have him in the lineup. Mike Redmond is better than Morales.
Top 8th: Nothing doing for the Yankees as Matt Guerrier sets them down in order.
Bottom 8th: You know it will be Phil Hughes, but does Girardi stay with him if Mauer gets up this inning? Or does he bring in Phil Coke to face Mauer, who already has homered off Coke this season? Or maybe Mariano Rivera for more than three outs?
Hughes allows the pesky Nick Punto a leadoff double. Oh boy! Here we go, down to the wire again in another tightly contested Yankees-Twins game.
That is a major blunder on Punto's part. There is no way you can assume that chopper is going through the infield. With no outs, your primary job is just to get to third base. No need to try and score right away. That is why they have third base coaches, Nick.
That being said, that was a great play by Jeter going to his left (thought he couldn't do that anymore UZR people?), snagging the ball before it went through, and accurately throwing the ball to Posada. Then Posada made a great throw (low and right on the bag) to allow an easy tag by Alex on Punto trying to dive back. A strong tag by Alex, too, just to put added insult to injury.
Jeter is the smartest baseball player of his generation. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Just ask Jeremy Giambi.
Second time tonight Punto ate some of the MetroDome turf. I guess if its going to be the last game there, might as well take more of it home with you.
Bet the Twins don't try and sell every brick and piece of mortar in that place like the Yankees are doing with the last Yankee Stadium. Although I am sure that right field baggie will command some big bucks.
Span still on first base with two outs and Mauer coming up.
Girardi answers our earlier question as Mariano Rivera comes on to face Mauer with the tying run (the speedy Span) on first base.
Wow, that first pitch was right over the middle of the plate! Mauer fouls it off, but I bet he wishes he had that one back! I am confident that Mauer was shocked the ball was down the pipe as he likely expected the cutter in on the hands.
Rivera has been a little off in his location all series. That RBI single by Span Friday night was another pitch that was supposed to be inside, but was left over the plate.
Next pitch to MVP Mauer is where it is supposed to be—in on the hands—and Rivera shatters Mauer's bat into a thousand pieces. Mauer weakly grounds out to Teixeira at first to end the threat.
The Twins have continuously run themselves out of potentially big innings all series long and this eighth inning is the latest example.
Top 9th: I would pinch hit Brett Gardner here for Damon as you would expect his defense to pay in the bottom of the ninth inning anyway. Damon is having an awful series, and has already struck out three times tonight.
Make that four times as he meekly goes down.
After Tex walks, Alex takes a couple really close pitches to force first and second with one out. Great at-bat by Alex.
Another pitching change by Gardenhire as he brings in Mijares to face Matsui, who has the highest slugging percentage at .618 against lefty pitchers of any left-handed hitter in the AL. Higher than Mauer, who was third this year with .497
Second place? He is up two batters from now—Robinson Cano at .541.
Matsui walks and Gardenhire looks absolutely frustrated as he walks to the mound to bring in his FOURTH pitcher of the inning. That is entirely too many changes. This lefty-righty matchup stuff is stupid.
Posada up with bases juiced. Wow! Surprised Jorge went after that first pitch. He is usually a taker of first pitches, but I guess he thought Nathan had to come in with a strike. I bet Posada did not expect a slider from Nathan with the bases loaded.
Base hit by Jorge plates another run. Big game for Posada both offensively and defensively tonight.
And a bloop single by Cano scores another and basically ices the game. Swisher is up with bases loaded. He has had a similar game with the bat as Damon—not good.
Swisher strikes out again. That is three whiffs for him and four for Damon tonight.
And the inning ends with the Yankees leading 4-1.
Bet if Gardenhire just let Pavano pitch this long, it would still only be 2-1 Yankees. He was really mowing them down until the two home runs in the top of the seventh.
Bottom 9th: Gardner in for Damon. Why not let him hit in the top of the ninth? Just to get an at-bat and an offensive look.
Bloop single by Cuddyer leads it off. Good point by Ron Darling who suggested that the long layoff in between innings might cause Rivera to get rusty. IS that why so many pitching changes were made? To get Rivera rusty?
Rivera will stay that way as he is virtually like a can of Rustoleum in this situation.
Kubel had no shot on that outside pitch as he was gearing up for the cutter inside.
Jeter ground ball and game over.
Yanks make quick, but not easy, work of the Twins.