The Yankees beat the Twins 7-2 in the first game of the ALDS, and if you’re a Yankee fan, you really couldn’t have asked for much more. Every starter except Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano got a hit. Derek Jeter hit a huge two-run home run to tie the game in the bottom of the 3rd after the Twins had just gone up by two in the previous half of the inning; Nick Swisher had a big RBI single; Hideki Matsui ripped an absolute bomb to center field; and, most importantly, Alex Rodriguez went 2-4 and knocked two big runs in, marking his first multi-hit and multi-RBI playoff game since 2004.
On the pitching side, CC Sabathia seemed to be having some difficulty locating early in the game, using 65 pitches to get through the first three innings. He really bore down and looked much sharper as the game wore on, and his final line of 6 2/3 IP, 0 BB, 8 K and 1 ER is really a thing of beauty. The second run was rightfully not charged to CC’s ledger, as Joe Mauer scored on a Jorge Posada passed ball that Posada inexplicably could barely be bothered to chase down, seemingly forgetting there was a man on third.
Even with Posada’s unacceptable mental lapse, had Jorge hustled just a bit harder they would have gotten Mauer, who started to head back toward third while halfway down the line until he noticed that Posada had no interest whatsoever in retrieving the ball in a timely fashion. Thankfully it didn’t much matter in the end, but there was some speculation in my section that Posada was sulking because of the Jose Molina start on Friday. Jorge, we’re all pissed about that, but if you’re going to “play” catcher like you did tonight, maybe an extra night off will do you some good.
Phil Hughes came on in relief of Sabathia in the 6th and was his usual fantastic self. My favorite non-offense-related moment of the game was Phil’s strikeout of the endlessly annoying Orlando Cabrera (which I predicted), who, true to form, had managed to work a 9-pitch at-bat prior to strike three. This was a pivotal moment — if Cabrera had walked, the bases would have been loaded for Joe MVP, who could have tied the game up with one swing of the bat.
Phil Coke got saw one batter — Jason Kubel — and got him out, and Joba Chamberlain came out of the pen to get Delmon Young to end the 8th inning. Mariano Rivera pitched around a couple of two-out hits to notch a scoreless ninth.
It was interesting to see Joba come out of the bullpen. The crowd obviously went nuts over it, and as much as it pains me to see Joba do anything other than start, if he’s not going to have that opportunity in the ALDS there’s no reason not to get him some work before ALCS Game 4, considering it’s a whopping two weeks from tonight.
As much as I am also a tremendously vocal proponent of bringing Hughes back to the rotation, even I have to admit there was something kind of cool about seeing both he and Joba come out of the bullpen tonight and shut the opponent down. It was the first time both Hughes and Chamberlain have been used in relief in the same game since the Yankees’ last playoff victory in Game 3 of the 2007 ALDS.
I know everyone loves close games, but I have no problem whatsoever if the Yankees want to continue to beat up on the Twins (and for that matter, all their potential playoff opponents). Seriously. One-run games are fun and make for some great baseball, but having a four- to five-run cushion for the bulk of a game can really do wonders for the psyche and soul.
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