If you are a New York Yankees fan, you have to start feeling like there is a lot of late '90s magic going on with this team.
When I say magic, I am not talking the clutch hitting from Alex Rodriguez or the brilliant pitching by Andy Pettitte.
I am talking the egregious umpiring that always benefits the Yankees (Joe Mauer call in Game Two), teams and players making bonehead plays they would normally not make (Nick Punto last night), and even when the Yankees make a bad play, it somehow working out in their favor (Robinson Cano misplay leads to an out last night).
Those were staples of the Yankee teams in their glory years from 1996-2000.
The Yankees beat the Twins last night 4-1 to sweep the Twins 3-0 in their best-of-five American League Division Series and advance to their first ALCS since 2004. The Yankees used some great pitching, timely home runs, and some just brutal baserunning by the Twins to get by Minnesota in this series.
What was amazing about this series was that every single time the Twins would take the lead, the Yankees would come back to either tie the game or take the lead the very next inning. It was unbelievable.
Last night was such a perfect example of what I am talking about.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth on a Mauer single off of Pettitte, who was brilliant in this game. The very next inning, Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hit solo home runs, and just like that, the Yankees had a 2-1 lead.
I even wrote on my Twitter page that the Yankees had the Twins right where they wanted them being down 1-0. The tragedy of that is Carl Pavano was pitching the game of his life before those two home runs.
That was the best I have ever seen Pavano look. For six innings he completely controlled the game. There is no doubt in my mind he earned a multi-year deal with his performance last night.
Even down 2-1, the Twins had their chances in this game. In the bottom of the seventh, Yankees manager Joe Girardi took out Pettitte for reasons only known to himself and replaced him with Mr. Mediocre himself—Joba Chamberlain.
Chamberlain proceeded to give up a double to Delmon Young, and the Twins had a runner on second with just one out. Chamberlain got Brendan Harris out on a hard grounder to third and then struck out Jose Morales to end the inning.
Do the Twins not have anyone else that can DH besides Morales? This guy stinks. Every time I see him play, he doesn’t seem even close to getting a hit.
In the bottom of the eighth is when the you know what really hit the fan for the Twins.
Punto led off the inning with a double off of the suddenly shaky Phil Hughes. The next batter, Denard Span, hit a chopper up the middle. Derek Jeter got to the ball and didn’t throw to first because he knew he couldn’t get Span. Punto, not picking up his third base coach, thought the ball went up the middle and decided to head home.
Punto realized the ball didn’t go into the outfield halfway between home and third, Jeter threw the ball home to Posada, and Posada threw out Punto trying to go back to third.
I really thought at that point Ron Gardenhire was going to punch Punto when he got back to the dugout. He had that look on his face.
After that play, the game was essentially over.
I can’t believe how many bad baserunning plays the Twins made in this series—and this was the supposedly the more fundamentally sound team coming into this series. It really was inexcusable.
Now the Yankees will move on to play their arch nemesis in the playoffs, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Game One of the ALCS will be on Friday.