What went right …
1. Clutch homer — Mark Teixeira has three postseason home runs and two have been tiebreaking shots against the Twins. After Minnesota tied the game at 4 in the sixth, Tex sent a 3-2 pitch from Jesse Crain to right field to put the Bombers up for good.
2. Third time’s a charm — During their first 18 appearances against Francisco Liriano, the Yankees were just 2-for-16 with two walks. Their fortunes began changing when Teixeira’s double to left sparked a four-run rally in the sixth that culminated in Curtis Granderson’s two-run triple to right field.
3. Bullpen effective — The Twins went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. David Robertson walked the bases loaded in the seventh but struck out Jim Thome to end the threat.
What went wrong
1. CC just so-so — Just
like last year, CC?Sabathia put the Yankees in an early hole to the
Twins. The ace’s inconsistent night started when he plunked Jim Thome
with a fastball and then gave up a two-run home run to Michael Cuddyer.
In the third, Sabathia failed to get to first base on time, allowing
Orlando Hudson to go from first to third on a groundout. Hudson then
scored on a passed ball to put Minnesota up, 3-0.
2. Off the glove — Two Minnesota runs came when Yankee fielders couldn’t corral the baseball.
3. Missed early chances —
The Yankees had a chance in the second inning with runners on first and
second but Curtis Granderson grounded out to end the inning.
For most of September, Mark Teixeira’s biggest concerns were a lingering right thumb injury that required a cortisone shot. The injury caused a diminished ability to hit for power and last night his biggest concern also involved power-hitting.
With one out in the seventh, it was a concern of inches.
As a full-count slider from Jesse Crain approached the plate, Teixeira extended the bat and sent the ball over the right field wall. As the ball traveled, an entire ballpark, television and radio audience wondered would the ball stay fair or stray into foul territory.
When the ball tucked inside the right field foul pole, Teixeira had a tiebreaking two-run home run that was the deciding factor in a 6-4 victory over the Twins and a 1-0 lead in the AL Division Series.
“Game-winning homers, there’s nothing better,” Teixeira said.
Teixeira’s third career postseason home run stunned the crowd at Target Field, who were one inning removed from seeing the Yankees scoring four in the sixth and the Twins tie it on a bases-loaded walk.
“In the postseason, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality,” Teixeira said. “You want to get big hits”.
It also occurred 363 days after Teixeira’s 11th inning game-ending home run off Jose Mijares just cleared the left field fence at Yankee Stadium and this one even had manager Joe Girardi channeling his 1975 Carlton Fisk by urging the ball to stay fair.
“Stay fair, ball! Stay fair, ball! Girardi could be heard saying on the TBS microphones.
“I was looking for a pitch up, and he did leave one up,” Teixeira said.
The home run and victory occurred on a night that CC Sabathia was not his finest.
Pitching on seven days rest, Sabathia labored at times through six innings, allowing four runs and five hits. It was the kind of line Yankee fans might anticipate from other starting pitchers but Sabathia also prevented things from escalating.
In the second, Sabathia gave up a two-run home run to Michael Cuddyer, who crushed a sinker over the center field wall. He then used his curveball extensively and stranded JJ Hardy on second by retiring Denard Span.
An inning later, the Twins had Orlando Hudson on third with one out and he scored on a passed ball. After Hudson’s hit, Sabathia began a stretch of retiring 11 straight hitters, which enabled the Yankees to hang around and eventually rally.
The rally occurred in a flash after the Yankees were 2-for-18 with two walks off Francisco Liriano through 5 1/3 innings.
It started with Teixeira lining a 0-1 changeup into left for a double. A walk and wild pitch put runners at the corners for Robinson Cano, who turned a 0-1 fastball into a run-scoring single.
The comeback continued when Jorge Posada lined a 3-1 slider into right and the lead was seized when Curtis Granderson’s flyball continued carrying towards right center field and turned into a two-run triple.
“That’s a huge at-bat,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Off the bat, you don’t know if it’s going to be a wall ball or a warning track fly ball.
The comeback was complete for now but the lead was not secure because Brett Gardner fell inches short of catching Cuddyer’s double. That continued the inning and Sabathia walked Jason Kubel and Danny Valencia with the bases loaded but facing more potential speedbumps, Sabathia struck out JJ Hardy with the changeup.
It was a night of big hits and big outs and if the Yankees accomplish it 10 more times, they have their 28th championship.
“Being able to get six runs in those two innings, that’s not easy to do in playoff baseball,” Girardi said.
Last year David Robertson’s ability to get out of trouble earned him the nickname of “Dave Houdini”. The moniker was used after he earned the Game 2 win against the Twins by escaping a bases-loaded jam in the 11th.
In his first postseason appearance this year, Robertson was summoned with two outs in the seventh. He walked Delmon Young after falling behind 3-0 and threw three straight curveballs to Jim Thome, who struck out swinging.
Once again, the calls for replay intensified when right field umpire Chris Guccione ruled that right fielder Greg Golson did not catch Young’s liner off Mariano Rivera. Rivera then retired Thome on the next pitch for his 40th postseason save.
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