(From my blog, with some additions)
Let’s go over the tropes, shall we?
+ Minnesota takes the early lead
–In every ALDS game last season, Minnesota scored first.
—Minnesota scored first today, jumping out to a 3-0 lead, which looked unbreakable as long as Francisco Liriano was on his game. In the first couple innings, Liriano looked downright unhittable. So the Yankees did what the famed Yankee teams of the late 90s and early 00s would do, they waited, working the pitch count until Liriano was over 100 pitches in the sixth inning, and then took advantage of his tired arm.
You can see the WPA graph and fancy stuff at the link.
+ Yankee bullpen comes up big, Minnesota’s does not.
–Game two of last year’s ALDS comes to mind, the eleven inning affair the Yankees eventually won after heroics from David Robertson and other bullpen members. Tonight, after a mediocre kept-them-in-the-game-for-six performance from Sabathia, Boone Logan, David Robertson, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera combined to keep the Twins scoreless in a two run game. On the flip side, Jesse Crain surrendered a two run home run to Mark Teixeira that proved to be the difference–last year, in game two, Joe Nathan first allowed Alex Rodriguez to tie the game in the ninth inning, and then Jose Mijares served up Teixeira’s down-the-line game winner.
+ The Yankee offense is the Yankee offense.
–Every Yankee starter except Gardner and Thames had a hit tonight, and those two reached via a walk each. The Yankees didn’t score till the sixth inning, but when they broke through, the crowd at Target Field went so quiet that when Granderson tripled and Teixeira homered you could have been excused if you had thought those clutch hits were instead outs. The Twins have legitimate hitters that can compete with anyone, a franchise player in Mauer and future Hall of Famer in Thome, but the Yankees led the Majors in runs scored this season, and showed why tonight.
+ Umpiring controversy
–Last year it was a foul ball that was fair, this year a fly ball caught on a shoe-string grab by Greg Golson that was ruled a trap instead of a catch. Had it been correctly called a catch it would have ended the game; since it was a trap it meant that Mariano Rivera, who’d already thrown twenty pitches for the four out save attempt, had to now pitch to Jim Thome with a runner on first.
Fortunately, for Yankee fans, Thome popped up on the first pitch and a crisis was averted…
Still, as technology gets better and we are more and more able to see which calls are accurate and which or not, baseball cannot forever put off instant replay. It’s one thing when a botched call costs a pitcher a no-hitter, as we saw this season, but it would be quite another if a botched call directly cost a team a game, which it could have tonight, had Rivera made a bad pitch to Thome.
No team should have to worry that their postseason fortunes may be decided on by a bad call; teams work too hard for too long over the course of a season for it to have to come to that.
+ Minnesota can’t win in Minnesota.
–The Twins are now 0-6 vs the Yankees in the postseason at Minnesota. Their home field advantage is now moot, as they must win two games in New York if they want a chance to win the series at home. Otherwise, they’d have to win each of the next three games, which is certainly possible, but not likely.
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