Immediately after the Friday night New York – Minnesota ALDS game, I received a text from the Shore Sports Report home office.
It read, “this team is special.”
Yes it is.
This 2009 Yankee team never ceases to amaze, especially when the chips seemed pile high on the other side of the poker table. Its like the other player throws down his winning three of a kind hand and smiles…right before the Yankees pull the 10 of clubs on the last card to hit that inside straight.
The Yankees have hit that inside straight so often this season, it appear they are playing with a marked deck.
A marked deck the Minnesota Twins have yet to figure out in 2009.
And it is everybody on the team who helps the Yankees win games, especially against the Twins at the new, new Yankee Stadium*.
*I call it the New, New Yankee Stadium because the original was torn down in 1973, the New Yankee Stadium opened in 1976, when Chris Chambliss homered in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals. (Yes, the Royals used to be really good, managed in the 1970’s by one of the greats of all time – Whitey Herzog). Of course, the New New Yankee Monstrosity was born this 2009 season.
The Twins visited Yankee Stadium the weekend of May 15-18th for a four-game wrap around series. The first three contests saw the Twins carry leads in the 9th (4-2 lead), 8th (4-3 lead) and 7th innings (2-0 lead), only to see the Yankees come back and win each of those games.
That Friday night contest saw the Yankees break through against Joe Nathan. Teixeira had an RBI single in the 9th, then Melky Cabrera lined a two-run single to left center to win the game. The next day saw the Twins and Nick Blackburn take the 4-3 lead into the 8th, where he allowed a two-out RBI single to Teixeira.
There is that free agent guy again getting a big hit, who then walked leading off the 11th before Alex hit a two-run homer off of Craig Breslow.
Game three of that series saw Alex again homering off the Twins starter Kevin Slowey*, a few batters before Melky tied the game on a sac fly. Johnny Damon hit another Yankee extra inning homer in the 10th inning to win it for the Bombers.
*Interesting to note that after Alex homered with one out in the 7th of that Saturday game, Slowey was kept in the game. After the next batter, Hideki Matsui, doubled, the tying run was on second with no outs. And Twins manager Ron Gardenhire again kept Slowey in the game. With only 83 pitches after the 7th inning, Slowey even started the eighth inning with the score tied 2-2. I like Gardenhire as a manager, but there were many times earlier this season he did not keep his starter in long enough and that Twins bullpen blew their leads.
Slowey is the typical Twins type pitcher, not a ton of velocity but great control. His walk rate is a ridiculously low 1.4 per nine innings and his K/BB ratio is 4.90. That is better than Greg Maddux territory.
Slowey was 10-3 but has been out since early July with a sore right wrist. He had surgery and is out for the season. Somehow the Twins still made the playoffs without their best pitcher. I wonder if SLowey in this Twins playoff rotation would make a difference.
The Twins were able to withstand the AL Central, but have fared miserably this season against the Yankees. That miserable streak continued Friday night when Alex and Tex beat the Twins bullpen with the long ball. Joe Nathan had blown a game against the Yankees in the post season five years ago, victimized by a prior big hit by Alex in the post season.
Nathan has had his struggles with the Yankees, but his numbers against them are not that bad overall, considering the talent the Yankees have had since Nathan has been in the American League. Nathan’s numbers versus the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers are worse.
Heartbreaking losses have permeated the season series between these two teams, plus the last couple playoff series they have played. The Yankees have won all nine contests this season, has happened before and will happen again. The Twins really do not match up very well with the Yankees, and with the comeback ability of the Yankees deep lineup, the Twins can not afford to make mistakes on the bases or miss opportunities with runners in scoring position.
They need get those runners in every scoring position chance. Leaving 17 runners on base in an extra inning playoff game will almost always guarantee a loss.
The Twins can’t afford to do that again tonight or they risk another heartbreaking Yankee comeback.
If that happens, will it be Alex or Tex to make it happen?