When Jim Thome flied out to short left field in the bottom of the ninth Thursday night, that out secured the New York Yankees eighth straight postseason victory over the Minnesota Twins.
The things which the Twins have no control over, whether it is missed third strike calls or fair balls ruled foul, have always come back to haunt them against the Yankees. Add in the many base running errors of last season's ALDS, too.
Witnessing the interviews in the clubhouse after Thursday's Game Two, it appears the Twins are sunk. The shrugging of the shoulders and the "I don't know" answers show they are defeated before they even play Game Three.
Because baseball is played without a clock, it is the toughest game to win. You can't just kneel on the ball or run out the 24 second clock every possession. The other team gets the same amount of chances as you do and you have to get the opposition out 27 times.
The Yankees have come back on the Twins time after time.
That is where all the thoughts seem to run around the players' heads. Once a single thing goes wrong, the bad thoughts come back.
"Here we go again," Or, "Why can't we beat this team?"
It's a tough game to play when there is so much time between pitches, and between at-bats.
It happens at all levels of the game. For example, while playing in a wood bat league a few years ago, our team was pretty good and made the playoffs every year. But we couldn't beat the one team which won the league title most seasons.
In fact, my old team disbanded and several players play for another team in the league, and they even lost this year in the playoffs to that same team we could not beat.
Bloop hits, tough calls, missed third strikes and crucial infield errors all played a part in keeping us thinking about how we could never beat them.
So when Lance Berkman appeared to get a favorable call on a Carl Pavano 1-2 pitch, you can see the Twins faces already knowing something bad was going to happen.
But credit Pavano for throwing a really good changeup on 2-2, but give equal credit (maybe even more) to Berkman to look for that pitch and drive it out to left center for the game-leading double.
It was a good pitch, but was it the right pitch? It was the same pitch in the same location which Berkman homered in the fifth inning. After that inside fastball, the veteran Berkman knew Pavano was getting calls on the outside (like the second pitch in that at bat) and looked for a pitch on the outer edge.
But the Twins were not done in their melt down.
Brett Gardner bunted Berkman to third*, but Danny Valencia fumbled the ball, allowing Gardner to reach base. Valencia made the fatal mistake of trying to field a still-moving ball with his bare hand, instead of using his glove.
*I still don't know why Joe Girardi continues to bunt Gardner in those situations. I would like to see Gardner get a shot at hitting a ground ball to the right side. But, on two of the most recent bunt attempts, the infield has messed up and Gardner has reached base.
And Jason Kubel appeared to get a bad jump on Derek Jeter's looping single to right field. Why he was playing Jeter that deep is beyond comprehension anyway. Jeter is not going to pound a ball over his head, so play him to dink and dunk away to right field.
Play Jeter like the Yankees are playing Thome, short in opposite side field for the pull-happy slugger.
While the Yankees are in the Twins heads, the biggest difference in the two teams is depth of the pitching staff. The Yankees are running out better starters and their bullpen has not faltered like the Twins bullpen.
Over four division series against the Yankees (2003-04 and 2009-10), the Twins are 2-11, with both wins by Johan Santana in the two straight early openers. But the Twins also ran out to the mound Brad Radke, Kyle Lohse, and Carlos Silva in those first two series.
The Yankees pitched Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, David Wells, and Andy Pettitte. Big difference.
In the two most recent series, there is no Santana but Francisco Liriano is there. However, the Yankees also faced Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano twice and Brian Duensing soon to be for a second time.
Meanwhile the Twins face CC Sabathia twice, (Good) AJ Burnett, and Pettitte twice.
And while Mariano Rivera and the rest of the bullpen seem to hold down the Twins in the late innings, Joe Nathan has melted away several games. Alex Rodriguez beat him last year with that big two-run, game-tying home run, but also beat Nathan back in 2004 with a game tying ninth-inning double in Game Two.
And Mark Teixeira also has had two big game-winning home runs in his two ALDS.
Who can forget Ruben Sierra's big three-run bomb in Game Four of 2003 (which Santana took himself out of the game) or Rogriguez's two-run homer off Pavano last year?
Joe Mauer? Just write down 4-3 or K in your scorebook before he even begins his at-bat.
The Yankees have overpowered the Twins pitchers with game-changing hits, but it is still the pitching which has kept the Yankees winners. Better pitching does not give up all those big, late-inning home runs.
I recently had a chat with Tino Martinez and asked him if he had the opportunity to pick a pitcher to start a Game Seven for his team, who would he choose between Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson? Tino played with and against both of these future HOFers.
He immediately replied Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte has beaten Pavano twice over the last two seasons, and is 3-0, 1.77 ERA in three starts against Minnesota in the ALDS. He is also 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 41 postseason starts.
The Twins have the Yankees aura to contend with, but what the biggest thing they have face is the Yankees better overall pitching—led by a consistent postseason winner like Pettitte.