1 inning of being shutout by Francisco Liriano soured my day.
3 innings of being shutout by Francisco Liriano gave me palpitations.
5 innings of being shutout by Francisco Liriano made it hard to watch the television.
And then the game gets really tense.
CC Sabathia was shaky at the start, not recording a 1-2-3 inning until the bottom of the 5th. In the second inning, he hit Jim Thome and then an immediate 2 run homer to Michael Cuddyer. In the third inning, Orlando Hudson went first to third on a ground out to first because Tex had to make a diving play to beat Joe Mauer to the bag; Hudson then scored the Twin's third run on a passed ball by Jorge Posada.
In the top of the 6th, the Yankees finally figured out Francisco Liriano. With one out, Tex doubled down the left field line. Arod walked, and Robbie Cano drove a single into right field, Tex scored. Marcus Thames struck out swinging, but with two out, Jorge Posada stepped up to represent the Old Guard. He worked the count to 3-1, and then took a fastball the other way for a single. With the tying run on second base and the go ahead run on first, up stepped Curtis Granderson and his re-tooled swing. He hit the ball as high and as far as he could hit it, and have it not leave the yard; he tripled in the go ahead run.
The long layoff wasn't kind to CC Sabathia though. He struck out Joe Mauer on 3 pitches. 3 more pitches and Delmon Young flew out to Gardner in left. Suddenly, CC was overthrowing. Thome walked on 5 pitches. The turning point of the inning game when Michael Cuddyer drove a pitch into the left field gap- Gritty Gutty Brett Gardner went all out for the ball, diving and coming within fractions of an inch of making the play of the game. Unfortunately, the ball was in the palm of his glove, and when he hit the ground it bounced loose. With runners on second and third, CC lost the strike zone, he walked the next two batters (walking in the tying run), before striking out J. J. Hardy to end the inning.
Knotted at 4 after 6, it promised to be a battle of the bullpens.
The Twins went to Jesse Crain, who got Jeter to fly out to center for the second time. Nick Swisher had other ideas, though, lashing a single into right field. This set up the most unenthusiastic home run in the history of postseason baseball when Mark Teixeira launched a moonshot down the right field line. Target Field was suddenly silent, and the evening was beautiful again. Arod placed a bouncing single deep the shortstop hole (Hardy was impressive just to get to it) that chased Crain from the game- his line 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 out. Brian Fuentes finished the inning cleanly, but the damage was done.
Boone Logan replaced Sabathia to start the bottom of the 7th. He got Span to fly out to CF, and Hudson to ground out to short. Joe Mauer put together an incredible at bat, fouling off 5 straight pitches before finally singling sharply to right. Out when Logan, and in came David Robertson. He fell behind Delmon Young, but battled back to a full count before ultimately walking him. Jim Thome stepped to the plate representing the go ahead run. D-rob got ahead with a first pitch fastball; Thome watched a curveball for a ball, another curve for a strike, and finally struck out swinging on a checked swing over the best curve of the AB.
The Yankees went meekly in the 8th inning against Fuentes. Kerry Wood came in and struck out Cuddyer. Jason Kubel walked and was lifted for a pinch runner. Danny Valencia hit a weak infield single toward short that Arod cut over from third to field. The announcers said Arod had no play at first, but never showed an angle that gave me a view of the runner coming down the line, runners on first and second. JJ Hardy grounded out sharply to the first base hole to advance the runners. With the tying run on second and two outs, Mariano Rivera started to get loose in a hurry.
In comes Rivera. A ball up and in on the hands of Denard Span. Another pitch to the same spot; 2-0. A checked swing on the cutter, lower but inside; 3-0. A strike, waist high, but tight to the lefty hitter. Another pitch inside- Span swings from his heels and bounces a foul backwards. Another inside cutter, this time Span gets the bat on it, but there's the satisfying crack as the lumber splinters- the ball rolls weakly to Jeter at short, who rifles it across the diamond to Teixeira. The Yankees are out of the jam.
The Yankees went quickly in the top of the 9th. Jeter, Swish and Tex combined saw only 8 pitches And Rivera went back to work against the heart of the Twins order. Orlando Hudson put up a fight down 0-2 before grounding out to Cano. Joe Mauer hit a liner back to Rivera and broke his bat. Golson made a great play on a sinking liner, but the umpire ruled it a trap. A team of 6 umps got the call wrong and allowed the tying run to come to the plate. I know it's an unpopular call to make to end the game in Minnesota, but I don't understand why there's no instant replay.
Thankfully, Rivera got the third out a second time, getting Thome to break his bat and pop out to Arod.
The Yankees take game 1, and steal home field advantage back from the Twins.
Comments of the Game: See the linked comments above for great thoughts from pkyankeefan, Monotonousblob, NjDeViLs33, Edgware and Kevin L.
Play of the Game: Granderson's triple improved the Yanks' odds of victory by 29.8%, just edging out the Tex message (28.4%)