A postseason thriller for the ages

teix250.jpgYANKEES CLASSIC
This was one for the ages, a nail-biter all the way through, a game with clutch failures and successes, controversial moments. As I write this, the game has been over for about an hour and I don’t feel like I’ve absorbed all of it; I feel like I should watch it again right away, like a great movie you need to go through one more time to make sure you caught all the important lines.

There were many reasons why the Yankees should not have won this game. The Twins reached base by hit, walk, or hit batsman 21 times, the Yankees only 10 times. The Twins stranded every runner in baseball history this side of Goose Goslin. If Kirby Puckett were still alive, they would have stranded him, too. Rickey Henderson in his prime could not have scored for the Twins on this particular night. Part of that is a reflection of the depth of the Yankees’ bullpen, which is undergoing a kind of trial by fire; some of it is bad luck for the Twins and good luck for the Yankees; a big bit of it might have been a blown call by an umpire.

Much of it, though, was purely magical, the culmination of stories long brewing in the Bronx. Alex Rodriguez had two big hits and looks so mellow that you expect to see him turning up at Bernie Williams’ next cool jazz concert sitting in on the pan flute. If Mark Teixeira’s excellent regular season hadn’t earned him his “True Yankee” badge, he won it tonight with his walk-off shot. Rodriguez and Teixeira hit their shots off one of the top two closers in the league and an up-and-comer who may soon aspire to that status, respectively. We also saw the arrival of David Robertson as a bullpen force to be reckoned with. No Edwar-dian flash in the pan, Robertson was on the verge of establishing himself as a late-inning alternative to Phil Hughes when elbow troubles halted his progress. After pitching out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam tonight, it seems likely he’s back on the path towards replacing Hughes in the eighth inning when the latter graduates (back) to the starting rotation next year. First, though, we may see more good things from this 24-year-old, a 17th-round pick of the Yankees in 2006.

So you had heroism, but you also had the Twins failing to execute. Last week, when I wrote up my hypothetical awards ballot, one reader took me to task in the comments for failing to include Ron Gardenhire. I’m not a Gardenhire fan, and we saw why tonight. Gardenhire has undoubtedly achieved something in posting a .547 record and five postseason appearances in eight years as Twins manager given just how little ownership supports that team. The Twins do not sign big free agents and they rarely make a big effort at the trading deadline (this year they did reach for Jon Rauch and Orlando Cabrera, though more was needed). The Twins try to mask their complacent approach by hyping themselves as paragons of fundamental baseball. Yet, when you see them in a big spot, they don’t carry through. Their defense shakes, they get caught up in one-run strategies, and they go home. The Twins should not have been expected to win this series against the Yankees, and they almost certainly will not. They should, however, be expected to win the games that they can win, and Friday night’s contest was one of those that was gift-wrapped for them. Instead, they ran into outs, threw away balls, and helped the Yankees stay alive.

A last note: in my pre-game entry, I challenged Joe Girardi to get Jose Molina out of the game as soon as possible so as to minimize the downside of using him. This he did at the first opportunity. Indeed, he used all three of his catchers, also pinch-running for Jorge Posada in the tenth. All credit to the Yankee skipper for making the obvious strategic calls. That sounds like a weak compliment, but most managers never get that far.  

AND ONE MORE THING

Not meaning to jump on the now famously mal-informed TBS broadcast crew, but Ron Darling said that Nick Swisher was primarily a designated hitter and first baseman with the White Sox. In fact, he played 97 games in the outfield for the Sox, played first base 71 times, and did not DH once. Not ever. None. Indeed, Swisher has always been a fielder, DHing exactly 10 times in his career.

FINALLY…

At this writing, the Angels are up on the Red Sox late. A Yankees-Angels ALCS sounds scary given the history between the two teams, but given seven games and home field advantage, the Yankees will take that series on pitching depth every time.  Before I attempt to defend that statement, let’s see if we actually get there. Due to the glacial pace of these series, there’s a Marco Polo road-trip’s worth of off days before we’ll get any resolution. 

15 Comments

What a game. I commented the other day that at around 213M we were also looking more fundamentally sound after game one. Aside from the Gardner baserunning gaffe, we were again tonight. And Kubel doesn’t single if Tex isn’t holding Mauer on first.

WOW! Somehow that’s “nuff” said.

Mr. Goldman, this is the most emotional post I’ve ever seen you write, and why not? WHAT A GAME.

As an aside, anybody this already exciting postseason is exactly what baseball needed? 3 walk-off games already (yes, I know that the Tigers-Twins tiebreaker technically wasn’t the playoffs, but it might as well have been), and four one run games, I believe. Baseball needs a good exciting postseason badly, and that’s what it’s gettting.

The yankee bull pen did not hold the twins-mauer hit what should have been a ground rule double.
The ump called it out giving the game to the yankees.

Mariano gave up hits and was confused.

The twins would have won if it wasnt for the terrible call.

BTW, I don’t fear the Angels. Yanks proved we can beat them in Anaheim earlier in the year.

The umpiring was terrible on both sides. Chuck Merriweather behind home plate made numerous ridiculous calls that hurt the Yanks and a few later in the game that hurt the Twins. Stevie Wonder would have a better sense of the strike zone than Merriweather did last niight.

was anyone else surprised by Posada’s pitch calling (im assuming he passed along info from the bench, but…)?

why would you “slow down” Punto’s bat after he was being blown away for the entire at bat by throwing a curve, giving him a chance to catch up to the ball? I almost could see throwing a curve out of the zone as a look-see, but Posada’s glove was there in the zone. Idiotic call.

Nevermind Girardi almost ran out of pitchers…he almost pulled a Torre circa 2003 against Florida, where you do not have your best pitcher in the game at the biggest spot.

I will take the W, but it wasn’t perfect!

Merriweather killed the Yankees for seven innings plus last night.
The fact that the Twins fans sweep that under the carpet and actually complain about another wretched call last night is laughable.
Umpiring is so bad – and the technology is now so good – that there’s no reason to have these fools on the field at all.
None. What’s the best thing anyone says about an umpire? That he’s consistent!

If anyone thinks that the blown call stole the game from the Twins, they must answer this… How is man on second, no outs better than bases loaded, no outs? That was the same inning and the Twins could not cash in. End of controversy.

Giving people compliments and putting people down are mutually exclusive Mr. Goldman. You don’t have to put down Edwar Ramirez to compliment Robertson. You don’t have to put down Molina to compliment Posada. There’s no way you can prove whether A.J. pitching decent(well, because scoring runs is the name of the game) had anything to do with Jose Molina catching but, if A.J. pitches to a 3.00 era during the postseason, then Molina should catch him every single game. The only negative that came out of last night’s game for me was the Yankees bullpen, although i’m only worried about one person. Hughes and Mariano are going to be fine, but Marte should not be pitching in any game unless he’s the last option(i know he was 2nd to last but that’s Girardi’s fault for having a quick hook on Joba in the 7th, hence we had to use Coke). when a pitcher gives up 3 hits to two batters then you know something is wrong. As of right now, i hope Marte never pitches in this series again, and i think he has also cost himself a spot in the ALCS roster.

you guys are such apologists….we got a GIGANTIC break, and all you can do is rationalize. Mauer should have been on second–when a team has a runner on second, and then hits TWO SINGLES, that runner is often able to cross home plate, scoring a run. yes, that play alone didn’t decide the game; yes, everything might have gone differently with the man on second rather than first; but it’s not really our place as Yankee fans to try and explain it away. we got a GIGANTIC break. man up, as the kids say, and admit it.

Steve, I’m curious: to me the single biggest story to these playoffs is umpire incompetence. given the union’s strength, can anything be done?

An unbelievably frustrating and exhilarating win. Joe was to quick with the hook on both Chamberlain and Aceves. The home plate umpire did the worst job I have ever watched over an entire game+ at calling balls and strikes. I’m sure by the third inning the players on both sides had no clue where “his” strke zone was. He made Eric Gregg’s stirke zone look textbook. Hope he’s not moving on out of the division series. Go get ’em in the dome Yanks!

I drove my husband nuts because I wore a hole in the floor pacing. He sits and stares. I walk around screaming and groaning. That’s a GREAT game: when it can go either way. When BOTH teams are in it to win it. He felt really bad for the Twins are the blown call. But I remember at least two umpire calls on Sabathia that were clear strikes that were called balls and the following pitches ended up as base hits. Karma. You have to swallow hard and fight back. We did. We never quit. I LOVE this team. I waited and waited for A-Rod to fit in. I think he finally has. Tex, too. Molina and Posada ended up both being needed in the game. And Cervelli. That’s team-work. We will win this as a team. I’m so proud we don’t have names on our backs. Just NY. Says it all.

I should say we have NY on our “hearts” and just numbers on our backs!

“…why would you “slow down” Punto’s bat after he was being blown away for the entire at bat by throwing a curve, giving him a chance to catch up to the ball? I almost could see throwing a curve out of the zone as a look-see, but Posada’s glove was there in the zone. Idiotic call….”

OMFG!!! I almost threw a rod screaming at the top of my lungs. I scared the crap out of my wife. I must have ranted about that call for hours. Why indeed???

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