October 11, 2009
ALDS, Game Three
Yankees Lead Series, 2-0
Yankees: Derek Jeter (SS), Johnny Damon (LF), Mark Teixeira (1B), Alex Rodriguez (3B), Hideki Matsui (DH), Jorge Posada (C), Robinson Cano (2B), Nick Swisher (RF), Melky Cabrera (CF), Andy Pettitte (P)
Game One was all Yankees and Game Two was full of missed opportunities for the Twins, so Game Three needed to fall in Minnesota's favor. They had scored first in each of the first two games of the series; they had the talent to win, they just had to make it happen.
Taking the hill for the Yankees was another perennial Twin-Killer, Andy Pettite. Charged with stopping Pettitte and his team of All-Stars was former Bronx Bomber Carl Pavano. Pavano was many things that a lot of Twins pitchers were not: eager for the big game, emotional, and, in that season, fully capable of being a force of nature.
As expected, Pavano was up to the task. He and Pettitte matched each other, and it's easy to think that through the top of the sixth, Pavano was actually the better pticher. He'd recorded eight strikeouts and allowed just three hits.
Minnesota mounted a rally with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Denard Span singled, stole second, and Orlando Cabrera took a walk to put runners on first and second. And then Joe Mauer did what Joe Mauer never does - he swung on the first pitch. His grounder through the left side brought in Span from first, and once again the Twins scored first. They took a 1-0 lead into the top of the seventh.
Pavano got Mark Teixeira to ground out to lead off the inning. Two batters later, Hideki Matsui was Pavano's ninth strikeout of the game. Two batters later again, Robinson Cano popped out to end the inning.
In between those three, though, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hit solo home runs.
Trailing 2-1, the Twins wasted a Delmon Young one-out double in their own half of the seventh. In the eighth, Nick Punto caused anyone anywhere who had any desire whatsoever to see the Twins win for any reason to repeatedly bash their heads into the wall or nearest fork. After splitting left and center fields for a leadoff double, Denard Span's grounder up the middle was fielded by Derek Jeter to the right side of second base. Punto was obviously off on contact that was behind him, and Jeter fielded the ball cleanly moving to his left. He paused just long enough to see what Punto was going to do, and threw home at just the right moment. Posada took the ball, gunned it down to Rodriguez at third as Punto frantically was scrambling to get back to the base, and A-Rod slapped a tag on he diving Punto.
Maybe Punto didn't realize how slowly Span's bouncing grounder was moving and didn't think anyone was going to get to it. But he ignored the stop sign. It was up, and he didn't stop.
Ron Mahay issued a one-out walk in the ninth. Jon Rauch came on and walked another. Jose Mijares came on and walked another. Gardy went to Joe Nathan, who gave up back-to-back singles before sucking it up and shutting it down with back-to-back strikeouts.
The damage, however, was done. Michael Cuddyer singled and took second on defensive indifference, but Mariano Rivera wouldn't be robbed. Two strikeouts (including Jason Kubel's ninth of the series) and a groundout later it was over, and the Yankees swept the Twins by a score of 4-1 in Game Three.
Displeasure about the playoff losses, to me, has been less about the results and more about how those results came about. Errors, pressure, pitchers losing command, base running gaffs, and some truly, truly game-changing and awful calls from the umpires...it was gut wrenching.
Personally, I cannot wait for the next opportunity.
Twinkie Town Game Recap: The Bottom Line: Twins Struggle to Hold Leads vs Yankees