Halo III: Yanks Series Sweep Sets Stage For ALCS Meeting With Angels

Michael GwizdalaContributor IOctober 12, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 11: Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees delivers the ball against the Minnesota Twins in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 11, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Anything you can do I can do the next inning, I can do anything better than you.  It was that theme that signified the Yankees three game ALDS sweep of the Twins.  Just when it seemed Minnesota had a firm grasp on the action, the Yankees proved in a New York minute everything can change.  One can't blame the Twins if they didn't want to score until the bottom of the ninth just so the Yankees would have no chance of coming back to score the next inning.

Such was the case Sunday evening as Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano were rolling along in the final game baseball game ever to be played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.  Both starters matched goose eggs through five until Pettitte blinked in the sixth.

With two gone Pettitte allowed a single and a stolen base to Denard Span.  After yielding a walk to Orlando Cabrera, Pettitte surrendered an RBI single to left to Joe Mauer scoring Span and putting Minnesota up 1-0.  Michael Cuddyer struck out swinging to retire the side but the damage had been done.

However in the top half of the seventh, just like the Yankees had done in the previous two games they scored in the frame immediately following one where Minnesota took the lead.  And for the third time in two games Alex Rodriguez came up and tied the score for the Bombers, hitting one out just above the baggie in right.

Then with two outs in the same frame, Jorge Posada decided to pay homage to the homer dome with an opposite field blow of his own to left, obviously never wanting to be benched in a playoff game again, putting the Yanks ahead 2-1. 

Pavano was done after that inning, leaving with perhaps a bruised ego to go along with his nine strikeouts.

After picking up his seventh strikeout against Jason Kubel, Pettitte gave way to Joba Chamberlain going 6 1/3 allowing just three hits and one run.  Chamberlain pitched another scoreless frame of post-season baseball, no midges in the Land of 1,000 Lakes.

Things did get interesting in the Twins half of the eighth though with Phil Hughes on for the Yankees.  Nick Punto got it going with a double to left.  Then the Twins who looked to put the pressure on, ran themselves out of another inning.

Denard Span bounced one up the middle that was snagged by Derek Jeter.  Punto took a wide turn and Jeter alertly altered his momentum firing home to Posada.  Posada gunned the ball down to A-Rod at third nailing Punto for the first out.

So instead of potentially having runners at the corners and putting the heat on the young kid Hughes who'd surrendered a run the last game, the Twins kicked themselves once again.  Cabrera flew out with Span on first and on came Mariano Rivera to face Joe Mauer.  With two outs Rivera sent Mauer's bat to the Land of 1,000 pieces as the Twins star catcher grounded to first ending the threat.

In the top half of the ninth the Yankees tacked on some insurance.  After the Twins brought on three relievers to walk the heart of the Yankees lineup (Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, Hideki Matsui), they brought on closer Joe Nathan who probably should've started the frame to begin with.

Posada came up huge again knocking in Teixeira with a single to right.  Following Posada, Robinson Cano hit one to shallow right that bounced off Kubel and plated Rodriguez to put the Bombers up 4-1.

Rivera went back out to finish the Twins in the ninth.  After allowing a single to Cuddyer, Rivera fanned Kubel and Delmon Young.  With two down Rivera who closed down the old Yankee Stadium, brought down the curtain on the Metrodome as Brendan Harris forever became the answer to a trivia question as the last player to bat in the Homer Hankie Haven, grounding out to Jeter thus ending the ALDS.

With the win the Yankees earn the 3-0 sweep (their first in the playoffs since the 1999 World Series vs. Atlanta), finalize their 5-0 playoff record at the Metrodome and pick up victory number 106 on the season.  Joe Girardi garnered his first playoff series win and sweep as a manager in one felt swoop.  Other accolades included Andy Pettitte tying John Smoltz for most career playoff wins (15) and passing Smoltz's old Atlanta Braves teammate Tom Glavine for most career playoff starts and innings pitched.  Mariano Rivera notched his 35th career post-season save and 100th career post-season strikeout as well.  Unfortunately for A-Rod there's no ALDS MVP for his spectacular play throughout the series.

Next up for the Yankees the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a match up of the best two records in baseball.  Each squad started the year with nine players remaining from the last time the teams met in 2005.  This will be the first ALCS contest between the two with the Halos beating the Yanks in the 2002 & 2005 ALDS. 

Luckily for the Yankees they can always consult YES analyst Al Leiter on how to beat the Angels in the playoffs, seeing as how he was the last one to do it for the Yanks at the old Stadium in '05. 

Festivities begin at the 'New House' Friday night!