Boy – it sure felt like a win. This was what you want. Actually, this is what you want any number of ways. Let’s count them, shall we?
1. Sabathia’s up to his old tricks, hitting a prime target on the Twins to send a message. (Not just a prime target, by the way, but an ex-teammate.) And instead, it backfires, as a Twins team leader gets his pound of flesh – times two. Not that Jabbathia would miss a few pounds of flesh.
2. Liriano messes up exactly the way he shouldn’t mess up – by walking the anemic-hitting Brett Gardner. Then, with Gardner running on the pitch, Jeter singles to left field but Gardner can’t advance to third because of the respect he needs to show to Delmon Young’s arm. Liriano induces three outs from the middle of the Yankees order as Target Field sways with … what exactly? Excitement? Passion? Those words capture the emotion, but not the force. I’m going to go with: Will. If Gardner takes the extra base, a run scores. Instead, the Yankees road gaffe saves the Twins a run.
3. Because Jabbathia has trouble oozing all the way to first base, Orlando Hudson manages to go first to third on a ground out to first base. A few pitches later he scores on a wild pitch. Another run that sloppy baseball cost the Yankees. The Twins coast through innings four and five with a 3-0 lead.
4. The second batter in the sixth inning, Mark Teixeira, doubles, but that’s what Teixeira is supposed to do against left-handers. The formula for survival is simple – take care of ARod, who is anemic against lefties. Then, limit the damage until you get to the latter half of the Yankees order. This is how any professional left-handed pitcher approaches this situation. It is nothing that the Twins ace cannot handle.
5. The collar has tightened. The game is 3-2 on a hit by Jorge Posada that cleared Orlando Hudson’s glove by ¾ of an inch. But now Curtis Granderson and his .215 career batting average against left-handers is up against Liriano, the Twins ace left-hander. The bleeding will be stopped, and the bullpen should be able to hold it from there, right?
6. The game is tied, the bases are loaded, and CC Sabathia has shown just how tired he is - throwing eight of his last nine pitches out of the strike zone. He’s facing a right-handed hitter that has hit .304 in the second half of the season, with a .363 on-base percentage. And of course, Target Field is as loud as it can get.
By the way, for those of you laying blame, don’t underestimate the damage that Hardy did in this game. Yes, he had a double early and displayed his solid defense. But in this at-bat, he watched (appropriately) strike one. Then Sabathia threw four straight pitches out of the strike zone, just like he had done for each of the previous two batters. And Hardy struck out on them.
7. The game is tied going into the last three innings, which means this game is going to be decided by the bullpens. Perfect. What’s more, the Twins best reliever also gets to face the top of the Yankees order, including two guys who have struggled against right-handers like him. That is exactly the match up the Twins were hoping for.
8. The Twins are down, but there are runners on first and second and Jim Thome strides to the plate – versus a right-handed pitcher? Yep. Because the Yankees had already used their only reliable left-hander, and because Young had singled off his the right-handed replacement, Thome was going to get his cuts against the Yankees third best right-handed reliever.
9. Against, the Yankees eighth inning setup man Kerry Wood, the Twins draw a walk and then luck out on an infield hit. Mariano Rivera isn’t warmed up yet, and so JJ Hardy gets his chance with speed on the basepaths.
Nine. That’s a nice number for a baseball game - but you could count more. Delmon Young’s fly ball to the edge of left field? Granderson’s double that was two feet short of a fly out? Teixeira’s home run that looked foul most of the way to the right field bleachers?
This felt like a win. And yet….
You might need to be a glutton for punishment to be a Vikings fan, but at least those losses only last three hours. A playoff series lasts days, and seemingly each day has at least a half dozen moments like these. Vikings fans at least get the band-aid ripped off fast. You’ve got to man up to be a baseball fan.
And you really, really, REALLY need to man up to be a Twins fan in the postseason. You’ve got a few hours left to prepare. Tonight let’s get something that does more than just FEEL like a win.
Hey, you’re not done. There is LOTS more great baseball stuff today, and you might want to soak it in. One way or the other, there isn’t a ton of baseball left this year.
Seth goes over the highlights of last night’s game and his thoughts.
Tonight’s game is a lot earlier, giving you absolutely no excuse to join me in celebrating/ranting about the game afterward. I’ll be on the patio at Sneaky Pete’s, assisting Justin Gaard in a postgame call-in show on KFAN AM 1130. Come in, talk Twins, and join me for a beer afterward. After tonight, I think we deserve it, don’t you?