October 7, 2009
ALDS, Game One
Twins: Denard Span (CF), Orlando Cabrera (SS), Joe Mauer (C), Michael Cuddyer (1B), Jason Kubel (RF), Delmon Young (LF), Brendan Harris (DH), Matt Tolbert (3B), Nick Punto (2B), Brian Duensing (P)
Yankees: Derek Jeter (SS), Johnny Damon (LF), Mark Teixeira (1B), Alex Rodriguez (3B), Hideki Matsui (LF), Jorge Posada (C), Robinson Cano (2B), Nick Swisher (RF), Melky Cabrera (CF), CC Sabathia (P)
Just one day after defeating the Tigers in one of the most exhilarating games, and finishes, in franchise history, the Twins were heading to the Bronx to take on the AL East champion Yankees. At 87-76, Minnesota was a big underdog to the 103-59 Bombers, and there is no better illustration of this fact than looking at the game's starting pitchers. CC Sabathia had just finished the third of what is still a running streak of seven consecutive seasons with 200+ innings, and was one of the league's few true aces. Rookie Brian Duensing, meanwhile, made nine starts and 15 relief appearances. As effective as he'd been in that role (2.73 ERA as a starter vs a 5.17 ERA as a reliever), it wasn't going to last. Even then his righty-lefty splits were pretty dramatic.
But it was still the visiting Twins that drew first blood. Sabathia was shaky and hittable early, and Minnesota found a way to capitalize in the third when an Orlando Cabrera single and a Joe Mauer double put runners on second and third with two outs. Michael Cuddyer picked up the first big run, and then Sabathia and Jorge Posada had a mix up forcing a wild pitch that brought home Mauer.
Derek Jeter homered in the bottom half of the inning, tying the game. One inning later the Yankees took the lead when Nick Swisher drove in Robinson Cano. Fast forward one more inning and Alex Rodriguez chased Duensing with an RBI single, and when Francisco Liriano came on in relief he gave up a two-run homer to the first batter he faced. It was a gut punch. Up until that point it felt like the Twins were in it, but in that instant a four-run lead felt insurmountable.
Rodriguez would tack on another run to give the Yankees a 7-2 win.