New York Yankees Make Mistake By Having AJ Burnett on the ALDS Roster

October 5, 2010

The New York Yankees post season roster is always highly debated, but this season the roster has a few extra spicy sidebars. We now know for sure what has been assumed for at least a few weeks: AJ Burnett will not get a post season start.

But if Burnett is not going to get a start, then he should not be on the post season roster in the ALDS at all. He is not going to get any late innings work, as those are reserved for Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood and David Robertson.

A.J. will only get long relief work, and that is if the Yankees are down by a few runs early or the games goes into a few extra innings.

In the first case, the reliever is in the game to “hold” the other team down and keep the game close. In the second example, the tight game takes on added pressure that a single bad pitch could cost a victory. 

One of the biggest needs to be a relief pitcher is to have control of the strike zone. I do not care if the reliever gives up hits, just do not walk anybody. Without a walk involved or back-to-back extra base hits, it usually takes three hits to score a run.

In either scenario, there are usually very few or no innings left and the team can not afford to put extra runners on base. If a reliever walks guys and gives up a few runs, the offense has fewer opportunities to get those runs back. While it is not OK for a starter to walk many guys, either, a team has far more chances to get early runs back if a starter gives up walks and runs early on.

It is imperative, and rule No. 1 for a relief pitcher, to throw strikes.

A.J. Burnett DOES NOT throw strikes consistently and can not be trusted to pitch in big spots, especially extra innings where his high walk rate (3.8 per 9 IP) would really hurt. He does not deserve a roster spot as he will not even get a chance to pitch.

But Burnett will pitch in the ALCS if the Yankees get that far. Probably in a Game 4, and for that reason, Burnett should also be off the ALDS roster.

It will allow him to go to Tampa to work out in Tampa and pitch during instructional league games against real hitters.

Forget the innings limit garbage and “saving the arm.” One of the keys for starting pitchers is to throw consistently against hitters, keep in rhythm and stay in pitching shape. If A.J. is in the bullpen for the ALDS, he is taken out of his consistent throwing.

I also believe Sabathia will have issues after not throwing for eight days between his last start and his first in the ALDS.

CC Sabathia will go his customary seven or eight innings win or lose, and I do not foresee him getting rocked early to where he has to be removed. So, no need for a long man in Game One. Andy Pettitte will go Game Two and will get at least five or six innings, maybe seven if he is cruising along.

And with Sabathia saving the bullpen in Game One, everybody is ready for Game Two. Phil Hughes has been pretty reliable all season. He has gone at least five innings in all but one start, and if not on an innings limit this year he probably would have gone five in that game, too. Expect Hughes to give his customary six innings in Game Three while allowing three or four runs, including at least one home run.

If those first three starts go as I anticipate, then the bullpen will need to get seven innings worth of outs. Joba, Wood, K-Rob and Rivera can do that with a little does of Boone Logan thrown in. There is no need for Burnett, unless one of the games goes extra innings.

And isn’t that what middle relievers are for?

Burnett was not great the last time he pitched in extra innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs and a walk, taking the loss. Granted he did throw that inning on two days rest (stop the presses!), but still was typical AJ Burnett.

Joe Girardi made a great choice in putting Sergio Mitre on the roster instead of Chad Gaudin. Mitre throws more strikes (2.7 BB/9 IP), has a lower ERA, WHIP and HR rate.

He also does very well against left-handed hitters (.226 BA/.261 OBP/.368 SLG) and in 13 relief appearances of more than one inning, Mitre has only allowed runs in four of those contests. Gaudin allowed runs in 10 of his 17 appearances of more than one inning. Mitre’s success against left-handed hitters (plus his ability to go multiple innings) likely cost Royce Ring a shot to get a roster spot as a second situational lefty.

And why is Dustin Moseley on the ALDS roster? He will not pitch unless the Yankees are getting killed, and they probably will end up losing by more if he enters a game. On the season, Moseley had an ERA just under 5.00, and the worst strike out rate, walk rate and home run rate of any Yankee pitcher. He is the worst possible candidate to be on a post season roster.

Girardi’s confidence in Moseley is baffling.

He has worse numbers than even Javier Vazquez, and has terrible number in relief roles. Meanwhile, Vazquez is 2-0, with a 2.70 ERA and limiting opponents to a .528 OPS in relief.

So instead of having both A.J. Burnett and Dustin Moseley on the ALDS roster, with both likely in the same role as Sergio Mitre as long man, Girardi should have been more versatile with his roster. I would have taken Vazquez over Burnett and taken an extra bench player such as Eduardo Nunez over Moseley. Burnett and Moseley are not going to pitch much, if at all, and it would be better for the Yankees to have that extra bench player.

With Golson in for Swisher for defense, the Yankees also lose their speed player in case they need to pinch run for someone. For example, Yanks are leading late and Golson is in for Swisher for defensive purposes but the Twins rally and tie the game.

Posada gets on base his next time up and you want to run for him. Run with Cervelli since he will replace Jorge? Good, but not great. It can’t be Ramiro Pena because he is your emergency infielder. If he runs for Posada, what happens if Alex pulls something? Who plays infield then?

That is where Nunez comes in to play. He can run and then provide added insurance as another infielder.

Roster management in a five game series should be much different. Teams don’t need that extra pitcher, and the Yankees have 11 arms on their ALDS roster. Extra position players would help a team more in various situations than an 11th pitcher.

The Yankees made a mistake carrying both Burnett and Moseley.

Advertisements

MLB Trade Rumors: Mariners Cliff Lee Will Be Traded to the Minnesota Twins

June 25, 2010

The Minnesota Twins are tired of running headlong into the buzzsaw that is the New York Yankees. This is the team that has beaten the Twins in the playoffs three separate times during the managerial reign of Ron Gardenhire.  

In their new 2010 Target Field, the Twins want to win the whole thing this season. They have a potent offense, led by three-time batting champion and 2009 MVP Joe Mauer and former MVP Justin Morneau.

They have the financial wherewithal with the new stadium and have upped their payroll already to $98 million, more than the Los Angeles Dodgers’. In addition, the Pohlad family, owners of the Twins franchise, are one of the wealthiest families in all of sports.

Yankees be damned!

Speaking with someone familiar with the situation (and verifying the initial conversation), the Twins traded for Cliff Lee last week, but the deal fell through. The primary player going to the Seattle Mariners, catcher Wilson Ramos , suffered a strained oblique during Saturday’s game. Ramos is expected to miss seven to ten days .

Ramos was not yet placed on the seven-day minor league disabled list, keeping the trade possible. Unless the Commissioner’s office signs off on the deal, players on the disabled list are usually ineligible to be traded. There must be an understanding that both teams know that player is on the disabled list.

The deal included Ramos, a Twins Major League-ready pitcher (believed to be left-handed reliever Brian Duensing ), and a low level minor league outfielder. The Mariners might be including a low level player, too.

Once Ramos gets clearance to play baseball again, this trade will again be made.

It appears that this deal heavily favors the Twins, as they would get one of the premier pitchers in baseball essentially for a young catcher their system sorely needs, a possible starting pitcher, and a filler.

If I were the Mariners, I would hold out (briefly, like a day) for 3B Danny Valencia , instead of the low level player, in addition to Ramos and Duensing.

This deal would give the Twins a very formidable starting rotation with Lee, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and Nick Blackburn.

Pavano, Baker, and Blackburn are without any type of innings limits. Slowey (91 innings pitched in 2009), and Liriano (138 innings pitched in 2009), are both coming off arm injuries and will likely be monitored for the rest of 2010.

In addition, Blackburn, who is signed through 2013 and is usually the team’s most reliable starting pitcher, has had a very off year so far. His record is a respectable 6-4, but with a 5.80 ERA. We all know, however, that the pitchers’ wins are more important.

Seattle had scouts watching Blackburn’s start on Thursday night, and weren’t impressed. They really want to get back a left handed pitcher, and Duensing fits that bill. He will be converted to a starting pitcher. The Mariners are also adamant about getting back a high level catcher, and would likely move their top catching prospect, Adam Moore, to first base.

The Twins staff already has five good starters, but Lee would fit in nicely in any team’s rotation. As I write this, Lee just finished up another complete game , beating the Chicago Cubs 8-1 with nine strikeouts and ZERO walks.  

It is Lee’s fourth complete game this season.

He is now 6-3 with a 2.39 ERA and a 0.912 WHIP. He has struck out 76 batters in 86.2 innings, and he has walked only four batters.

Dontrelle Willis walked seven hitters in only two-plus innings last night.

Ramos is a good, young catcher but is blocked by Joe Mauer, making him expendable. Ramos came up to the majors earlier this season when Mauer was hurt and hit .296/.321 OBP/.407 SLG/.729 OPS with three doubles and an RBI in limited time.

However, he is struggling with the bat in Triple-A Rochester, hitting only .218 with four homers and 18 RBI.

That positive Major League time gave the Mariners an idea that he can be a good starting catcher. In fact, Ramos could step into a starting role right away.

Duensing is a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher who was squeezed out of the Twins rotation in 2010. He started nine games last season, including this gem over the rival Detroit Tigers, which helped lead the Twins into the playoffs.

Duensing was 5-1 as a starter down the stretch last year for the Twins.

Even though he has been great as a reliever this season (2-1, 1.88 ERA, 0.812 WHIP), and really tough against lefty hitters (.122 BA), I do expect the Mariners to convert Duensing back to a starting pitcher.

It is not enough of a haul for the Mariners, especially well before the trading deadline and with Lee pitching brilliantly right now.

The Mariners are basically giving the American League Central division title to the Twins.

And that is bad new for the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and any other possible American League playoff team which could face Lee in the 2010 playoffs.


New York Yankees Next 35 Games Are Of Extreme Importance

May 24, 2010

The Yankees began a crucial 35-game stretch Thursday night with a 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers then have split the first two games of the Subway Series against the cross-town New York Mets.

The Rays showed just how much better they are than the Yankees, with better pitching, scoring early and having a back end of the bullpen which did not blow games.

They also out-scouted the Yankees, using defensive positioning to help defend Mark Teixeira and surprisingly, the newly-promoted Juan Miranda. 

With all the injuries and the starting pitching not performing well (at least the last turn through the rotation), it will be interesting to see how the Yankees respond to this upcoming stretch.

After concluding their three-game set at the Mets, the Bombers travel to Minnesota, then home for seven games against second division teams Cleveland and Baltimore. The Yankees go on the road, seeing for the first time the pitching-rich and homer-friendly Toronto Blue Jays.

Interleague play continues with three against the Houston Astros, last year’s World Series opponent Philadelphia Phillies and another series with the Mets.

The Yankees go west for the second time, including visits at the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Yankees renew friendships with former Yankee skipper Joe Torre and former pitcher (and first-round pick) Ian Kennedy.

It is about this time where Jorge Posada should be ready again, out for about a month with a stress fracture in his foot. The foot injury is devastating for any catcher who continually squats down and flexes his feet.

However, with the defense which Francisco Cervelli is displaying, Posada mostly could be used as a DH with occasional catching duties.

While Cervelli has certainly been impressive, it has mostly been as the “backup” catcher. Despite playing the majority of the last 10 days behind the plate, it was not until Posada actually went on the disabled list (DL) that Cervelli became the “starting catcher.”

While no one expects him to become the next Yogi Berra, the pressure is now on Cervelli to keep playing well. If he doesn’t, there is no one behind him to help carry the load. He has only hit .227 over his last six games, the time which Posada has been out.

Nick Swisher is back and hitting. Curtis Granderson has begun a minor league rehab assignment, and the Yankees could have a full complement of starting position players (minus Posada and the easily replaceable Nick Johnson), within a week.

After being swept by the Rays, the Yankees need to win 20 or more of these 35 games over these next five weeks, before they get Posada back.

At least keep the distance manageable from the Rays, but these upcoming games are not important due to catching the Rays, but because the Yankees are looking to keep distance between them and the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

Minnesota has the same record as the Yankees while Detroit is only two games back of the Yankees entering Sunday’s schedule.  

Both those AL Central teams have good starting pitching, with the Twins complementing that with a really good, powerful lineup.

The Tigers are riding veterans Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, and have had immediate success with rookie outfielders Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch. They did recently take three of four from New York.

Lots of question marks remain relative to the Yankees starting pitching, relief pitching, recent offensive woes and some defensive issues with Alex Rodriguez and his throwing. 

Is that all?

With certain guys still out, it is imperative that veterans Mark Teixeira (1 for his last 20) and Derek Jeter begin to improve their strike zone discipline and the starting pitchers work more efficiently to keep the weak middle relief off the field.

With all the other issues, the Yankees can ill afford to further their recent skid which has seen them drop nine of their last 14 games.

Other teams are lurking.


Joe Mauer Signs Eight-Year Extension with the Minnesota Twins

March 21, 2010

On the day that the Minnesota Twin fans received terrible news about their closer Joe Nathan, they have good news from the receiving end of the battery, Joe Mauer.

According to many sources , the Twins have re-signed their 2009 American League MVP and three-time batting champion catcher to an 8-year deal for $184 million. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and keeps the homegrown (and hometown) All-Star with the team through the 2018 season. 

A press conference is scheduled for Monday evening.

Mauer is a Minnesota Twin for life.

There was much speculation that the small market Twins would never be able to afford Mauer, and he would go to the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees via free agency. But what these speculators did not realize is that the Twins ownership, the Pohlad family, is one of the wealthiest ownership groups in all of sports, with a net worth of $2 billion. 

The fact that the patriarch, Carl Pohlad, was a tightwad should not have reflected negatively on his sons who now run the team after his father’s death.

Jim Pohlad correctly knew that the Twins needed to sign their hometown son to be a Twins for his entire career.

That is the way baseball should be. The Twins drafted and developed a three-time batting champ/MVP, and he stays a Minnesota Twin forever.

I said this in a post to a Mauer to the Yankees article on Bleacher Report :

Mauer will sign an extension before the 2010 season begins, and the Twins fans will be happy .”

Even as a Yankee fan, I did not want Mauer to leave Minnesota. With all the catching prospects in the Yankee system, they didn’t need, and shouldn’t have wanted, Joe Mauer. 

Also, the Twins are no longer a small market team. (The term “small market team” is such a stupid term anyway because all the owners are filthy rich, and they can afford to sign their own players.) According to a report, the new Target Field and the Twins’ subsequent new TV and radio deals will give the Twins Top 10 ranking for outside revenue in MLB.

That fact, and the Pohlad’s vast fortunes, made the Twins signing Joe Mauer to a long-term deal to keep him a Twin for life a no-brainer. The Mauer deal, signing Justin Morneau long term, and having the smarts to draft and develop well (and actually play their young players), will make the Twins contenders in the American League for the foreseeable future.  

And that is good for baseball.


The New York Mets Signed RHP Clint Everts! Yes!

January 12, 2010

When news broke last month that the New York Mets, led by GM Omar (the Maniacal) Minaya, signed Clint Everts, a minor league pitcher for the Washington Nationals, most of the reaction by the Mets faithful was ho-hum.

At least this signing wasn’t another back up catcher like Chris Coste and Henry Blanco.

The Mets did say this off season was going to be spent looking for a left fielder (Jason Bay – check), catching and pitching. What Met fans did not realize that by pitching, they meant the career minor leaguer Everts.

Who ever heard of this guy, a Washington Nationals reject?

Actually, I have and wrote about him  (although he was a spare part to the story) on several occasions.

Clint Everts* was the first ever draft pick (5th overall) in 2002 by Omar Minaya when he was GM of the (then) Montreal Expos. Coupled with the acquisition of Jason Bay, it appears Omar really loves to have his old chums back in the fold.

Minaya chose Everts over such also rans as Zach Greinke (6th – one pick later), Prince Fielder (7th), Jeff Francis (9th), Jeremy Hermida (11th), Joe Saunders (12th), Scott Kazmir (15th – Mets), Nick Swisher (16th), Cole Hamels (17th), James Loney (19th), Denard Span (20th), Jeff Francoeur (23rd), Joe Blanton (24th) and Matt Cain (25th).

*Interestingly, Everts played HS baseball with Kazmir. Imagine two high school players both chosen that high in the draft? (That also happened in 2007 when Mike Moustakas was taken second overall by the Kansas City Royals and his teammate Matt Dominguez was taken 12th overall by the Florida Marlins.) 

Kazmir was traded away to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a trade which cost the job of GM Jim Duquette. Minaya then replaced Duquette as Mets GM. 

See how everything comes full circle in baseball? Minaya has very few of his drafted players which have made the majors, with virtually no players making an impact. Mike Pelfrey is the best Minaya draftee thus far.

For all his supposed scouting prowess, Minaya is a terrible drafter.

I wonder if all those ex-Expos guys like Bay, Everts, and Orlando Cabrera (Why not Omar?, Cabrera is Latino and once played for you in Montreal) are making the 360 degree turn and coming back. Why does Omar insist on bringing back all his former players that he once rid himself?

Because Omar never has, is not now or never will be a good General Manager.

A little refresher course on how Omar became a MLB General Manager. He was assistant GM of the Mets and interviewed for several GM jobs which had opened up.

Minaya interviewed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998, then interviewed with the Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, Anaheim Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers (his old team which gave him his start).

All for their open GM positions!

And no one wanted him, as John Houseman would say, the old fashioned way…by earning it! Even the lowly Pirates, probably the worst managed organization in baseball did not want Omar to head their team, to be the face of their franchise!

Looking back at this past season, with all the terrible press conferences he held where Omar had a terrible UZR on the English language, most likely did not help him in the interview process.

Despite all the people throughout baseball who thought Omar was a great guy and terrific ambassador type for baseball with the Latin community, he still did not impress enough to warrant a real, earned job.

But in December 2001, MLB wanted to contract two teams from its “roster.” One targeted team was the Montreal Expos (the other was the Minnesota Twins). MLB wanted to appease the Expos owner Jeffrey Loria so when the Boston Red Sox franchise became available, MLB allowed Florida Marlins owner John Henry to buy them. Then the Marlins were purchased by Loria and MLB assumed the ownership of the Expos.

A nice, tidy, three way swap.

But since MLB was desiring to have their first Latino GM, it was a great triangle for MLB as they get to kill two birds with one stone. They would rid themselves of two undesirable franchises and hire themselves MLB’s first Latino GM, something Bud Selig was being pressured to do.

All involved knew that contraction was NOT going to happen due to the Minnesota lawsuit, and the likely result was that both teams, but primarily Montreal, were going to switch cities. Even though the franchise would  remain viable, MLB allowed Minaya to make terrible trades as Montreal GM which continues to ruin the franchise even today after the team moved to Washington.  

And now Minaya has continued his trend of ruining teams by running the New York Mets into the ground. His total lack of player development has put the Mets into a Ponzi scheme type hole of continuously needing to sign big money free agents to fill needs.

With his job on the line Minaya continued that trend by signing Jason Bay and Everts, of course.

 Why would Mets ownership continue to put their future into Minaya’s hands knowing he is desperate save his job? Desperate men do desperate things, which is detrimental to the future of the organization. If Minaya fails this season and gets fired, he will NEVER get another top job within baseball.

But at least Clint Everts will still be working.


Phil Cuzzi’s Missed Call Had No Effect on Friday Night’s ALDS Game

October 12, 2009

I waited a few days so I could read most of the reports on the great Friday night comeback for the Yankees. Most of the talk in the papers, on the sports talk radio stations and on television was about the missed call and how it cost the Twins the game.

Too many people now are wanting instant replay for even more baseball plays, but I thought we were stopping at only home runs. Technology creeping into the game, like Democrats saying the new Health Care Plan won’t cost very much…now, but wiat a few years when they need even higher taxes. Pretty soon replay will be wanted for close plays at first, every close tag on every steal attempt and every play at the plate. Might as well have a TV monitor right behind the home plate umpire so he can consult things quickly.

But no one mentioned that Phil Cuzzi’s call had no affect on the game’s outcome, and all the great baseball plays and performances Friday night played second fiddle to “the mistake.”

Alex Rodriguez hits a bottom of the ninth two-run homer off the Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan to tie the game, breaking his “drought” of clutch post season baseball, Mark Teixeira then hits a game-winner homer two innings later to win the game. That was important for Tex, because although he had a great, MVP-type season, New York fans incorrectly legacy your time in New York based upon how you do in the post season. Tex got the monkey off his back well before that animal was even born.

Other big plays included Nick Swisher throwing behind Carlos Gomez, with Derek Jeter getting that tag out on Gomez before Delmon Young crossed the plate on Nick Punto’s fourth inning single. Kudos to Jeter for being in the right spot on defense once again, and for Swisher noticing Gomez’ base running blunder. 

Also, David Robertson’s great pitching job in getting out of that bases-loaded jam in the top of the 11th inning might have been the biggest moment.

However, many people think that Robertson never should have had the opportunity to get out of that jam due to the missed call on Joe Mauer slicing drive down the left field line. The ball glanced off of Melky Cabrera’s glove, landed in fair territory and bounced into the stands.

The ball was called foul and no one on the field argued for the Twins. Mauer eventually singled in that at bat, but if the correct call was made by umpire Phil Cuzzi, there is a big difference in having a runner on second with no outs than on first.

Right?

Absolutely. After all the Twins then hit two straight singles after Mauer’s hit, so he definitely would have scored the go ahead run.

Maybe, but probably not.

If Mauer was correctly awarded a ground rule double, there would be a runner on second and no outs. As I said earlier, a much different scenario for the Twins…BUT ALSO FOR THE YANKEES. Do you really believe the Yankees would pitch the same way with a runner on second and no outs rather than a runner on first and no outs?

No way. The Yankees would realize that only a single would give the Twins the lead and their best way to get out of the inning would to get a double play. I venture that if the Yankees were in that situation, they would have pitched around the next hitter Jason Kubel while they had that garbage reliever, Damaso Marte, on the mound.

They would not have allowed Marte to even get a sniff of the strike zone against the power hitting Kubel, even if it was lefty versus lefty. At best, Marte would throw four straight pitches far away hoping Kubel would chase. The Yankees would rather have had the strike out machine David Robertson (yes, that is I who sponsors his BR.com page) face Michael Cuddyer with runners on first and second.

This would allow a better chance for a strikeout, and a good possibility of a double play if Cuddyer hits a ground ball.

So, the basic situation would be the same whether Cuzzi made the correct call or not. Kubel would not have had the chance at getting a hit, but would have been awarded first base when Marte threw the fourth straight pitch out of the strike zone.

The Twins would have had first and second with no outs, Cuddyer coming up and Robertson coming in to pitch.

It is the same situation the Twins (and Yankees) were in AFTER the blown call.

And Cuddyer singled to center field and the third base coach held Mauer at third base, even with the weak armed Brett Gardner now manning center field.

Mauer was held for two reasons. First, the Twins had the bases loaded with no outs, no reason to risk getting Mauer thrown out at home with no outs, even with the weak armed Gardner in center. Second, Mauer was suffering from a sore hip, one he aggravated during Game #163 against the Detroit Tigers when he slipped and fell around first base on a ball into right field. But no one really knew about Mauer’s injury until after the game.

After Cuddyer’s single the Twins went in order with no runs scoring due to the great pitching of Robertson and good defense by the Yankees.

The same situation which happened with Cuzzi’s bad call. 

Many people have said that because of the bad call, Mauer would have been on third with Kubel’s single and would have scored on Cuddyer’s single. What is not understood is that the game changes upon every at bat and many times with each pitch. What a certain batter does at the plate determines how the offense (and the defense) plays the next hitter, whether it be pitch selection, pitch location and defensive positioning.

So, if Mauer was correctly awarded second base, the Twins still would not have scored a run in the 11th inning.

But even if Mauer was sent in by the third base coach and scored, and the Twins tooka one runlead into the bottom of the 11th, do you really think the Yankees would have settled and only scored on Teixeira’s leadoff home run?

Me neither.


Yankees Dash Twins Hopes Once Again

October 11, 2009

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.

Sounding familiar?

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?