Results tagged ‘ Target Field ’
A perfect example of how managerial moves are based on players’ execution was on view in the seventh inning Tuesday night. Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a pitching change that seemed to make a lot of sense at the time only to have it explode in his face.
Phil Hughes cruised through six innings and had a 3-1 lead with a relatively low pitch count. He gave up a leadoff single in the seventh to Ryan Doumit and then lost Chris Parmelee to a walk in a 10-pitch at-bat in which Parmelee fouled off six pitches. Hughes didn’t appear gassed, however. He got an out on a popup before an infield single by Jamey Carroll loaded the bases. Hughes got a huge second out on a strikeout of Pedro Florimon on a high fastball.
This is when Girardi made his move to Boone Logan. Although Hughes was only at 99 pitches (like it or not, pitch count for starter plays into such moves), Girardi’s decision had merit. Logan is a lefthander, and the next four Minnesota batters were left-handed. This was as book a move as they come. It was also as disastrous a move as they come, which was because of Logan’s failure to execute pitches.
He got off to a bumpy start while pitching to Denard Span by throwing a wild pitch through the legs of catcher Russell Martin that scored Doumit to make it a one-run game with the other two runners advancing as well. Span worked the count full before lining a slider into right-center field for a two-run double that cost the Yankees the lead.
Logan continued to struggle against the lefty hitters as Ben Revere walked and Joe Mauer singled for his third hit to score Span for an insurance run that proved necessary when the Yankees scored in the ninth on a pinch home run by Andruw Jones.
The 5-4 loss was a tough one for the Yankees and an excruciating one for Hughes, who instead of improving his record to 17-12 fell to 16-13 and lost the chance to equal his career high in victories of 2010 when he was 18-8. If nothing else, though, Hughes probably cemented his position in the Yankees’ postseason rotation, assuming they get there, of course.
That would have been more of a cinch had the Yankees won Tuesday night. The Orioles had lost at home to the Blue Jays. A Yankees victory would have pushed Baltimore 2 ½ games away (and three in the loss column) in the American League East, but they had to satisfy for another calendar date turnover.
It was a disappointing turnaround for the Yankees, who used the long ball once again with a two-run home run by Nick Swisher and a solo by Martin. Jones’ 14th home run of the season was his first in 49 at-bats since Aug. 16. The Yankees continued to find Target Field to their liking with 17 home runs in nine games there over the past three seasons.
Swisher is heating up at a good time with an eight-game hitting streak in which he has 11-for-30 (.367) with four home runs and 11 RBI. Another good sign was Robinson Cano reaching base four times on three singles and a walk after coming into the game with three hits in his previous 25 at-bats, a .120 stretch.
Derek Jeter had 1-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 19 games, matching the third longest of his career. The other was in 2007, the same year that he also had a 20-game streak. The longest streak of DJ’s career was a 25-gamer in 2006, the year he finished second to Twins first baseman Justin Morneau for the AL Most Valuable Player Award.
Just as he did five days earlier, Andy Pettitte pitched with a lot of runners on base Monday night at Minneapolis. And just as he did five days earlier, Pettitte made sure none of them scored.
It was another shutout effort for the lefthander after missing 11 weeks because of a fractured left fibula. Pettitte has put up a zero for each of those weeks – 11 scoreless innings in his two starts back. Buoyed by a 3-0, first-inning lead, Pettitte worked out of the jams he got himself into and notched another victory against the Twins, which is pretty common for him.
Things looked shaky in the first inning when Minnesota loaded the bases with one out, but Andy stunned Justin Morneau with a fastball on the outside corner for a called third strike and retired Ryan Doumit on a fielder’s choice. The Yankees supported Pettitte with two double plays to get out of innings, and his catcher, Russell Martin, made a sensational tag for an out at the plate after taking a strong throw from center fielder Curtis Granderson to end another inning.
Over six innings, Pettitte scattered seven hits and a walk and struck out three in improving his season record to 5-3 and earning his 245th career victory to tie Dennis Martinez for 49th place on the all-time list. He is undefeated over his last 12 starts against Minnesota (regular season and postseason combined) dating to May 2001 with a 10-0 record and a 2.53 ERS in 80 2/3 innings. Over his past 17 regular season and postseason starts against the Twins since 1999, Pettitte is 13-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 117 innings and has held them to three runs or fewer in 14 outings.
Now what is all this about Target Field being a tough place to hit home runs? Not for the Yanks. They pounded four of them, including three absolute moon shots, against Twins righthander Liam Hendricks and have clubbed 14 home runs in eight games at the Minneapolis yard that opened in 2010.
Nick Swisher got the home run derby going in the first inning with a two-run shot to right that measured 428 feet. Granderson went nearly 10 feet farther with his solo shot in the fourth that was his 40th home run of the season, one shy of his 2011 total. Granderson joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi as the only Yankees players to homer 40 times in consecutive seasons. It should be mentioned that the Babe did it eight times while the others did it once apiece.
Raul Ibanez continued his smoking hot streak with a drive into the second deck in right field leading off the seventh inning for his 18th home run. Eric Chavez homered to left (No. 14) two batters later. Ibanez has 7-for-12 (.583) with two doubles, three home runs and five RBI since breaking out of a 0-for-18 slump.
Ichiro Suzuki, last week’s American League Player of the Week, doubled his first time up, and Derek Jeter with a single in his final at-bat in the ninth inning extended his hitting streak to 18 games.
The Yankees also gained ground in the AL East standings over the Orioles, who divided a doubleheader against the Blue Jays at home. The Yankees’ lead is 1 ½ games (two in the loss column) as the magic number for clinching a postseason berth is down to four.
Ivan Nova just might be running away with the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award if he had not had to spend most of the month of July in the minor leagues because of the Yankees’ pitching logjam. Nova ran his winless streak to 10 starts with Sunday’s 3-0 victory over the Twins that completed a 5-2 trip for the Yanks, who are proving to be true road warriors.
The righthander’s 13 victories in 17 decisions are the most for rookie pitchers, and seven shutout innings brought his ERA below 4.00 at 3.97. This was a scoreless game for five innings. Nova was most impressive in working out of tight situations.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Twins had runners on second and third with none out as the result of a single by Jim Thome and a double by Danny Valencia on a ball that fell between center fielder Curtis Granderson and right fielder Nick Swisher on a mix-up of coverage. Nova met the challenge by striking out Rene Tusoni and Matt Tolbert and getting Drew Butera on a grounder to first base. Minnesota had runners on first and second with two out in the sixth, but Nova stranded them with a strikeout of Thome on a nasty slider.
Nova’s victory total is the most for a Yankees rookie pitcher since reliever Ron Davis was 14-2 in 1979 and most for a Yankees rookie starter since Doc Medich was 14-9 in 1973. Neither was a Rookie of the Year winner, but Nova is a firm candidate this year. His competition comes from fellow starting pitchers Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays and Michael Pineda of the Mariners, reliever Jordan Walden and first baseman Mark Trumbo, both of the Angels. Nova has not lost since June 3 at Anaheim. In 10 starts since, he is 9-0 with a 3.59 ERA.
On a day when the Yankees were hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position, they used their legs to get Nova some runs. After leading off the sixth inning with a double, Robinson Cano sped to third after a flyout to left by Swisher and was able to score on Russell Martin’s fly ball to center.
The next inning, Granderson ran out every base of his 35th home run, the third inside-the-parker of his career and the first in the two-year-old Target Field. Granderson showed what can happen when a player runs hard. He could have cruised into third with a triple but he never let up so that when the Twins botched the relay he saw third base coach Rob Thompson’s green light and beat the play to the plate.
Mark Teixeira followed with a more conventional home run on a liner into the left field stands. His 34th kept Tex one behind the team leader, Granderson, who tied the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista for the league lead.
The Yankees are doing an excellent job of navigating their way through an August schedule that has them on the road nearly three-quarters of the time. They are 10-4 away from Yankee Stadium this month and 37-24 for the year.
A.J. Burnett was none too happy about being yanked from Saturday night’s game in the second inning and seemed to express some displeasure in a remark to manager Joe Girardi while heading for the dugout. What gripe Burnett could have had about the skipper’s move would be lost on me. What A.J. should have said to Girardi was “Thanks.”
Burnett had just walked two batters to load the bases with two outs and was already behind 4-0. The righthander had managed to get only five outs (four actually because his catcher, Russell Martin, got one of them by throwing out a runner attempting to steal second base). Certainly Burnett wanted to get out of the jam he created, but with cleanup hitter Justin Morneau, a former American League Most Valuable Player, coming up, who could have blamed Girardi for making a pitching change?
Never mind that Luis Ayala didn’t help matters by walking Morneau to force in a run and allowing a single to Jason Kubel that chased home two more runs that put the Yankees in a 7-0 ditch. Nothing Burnett did in his 1 2/3 innings convinced Girardi that he could get the job done. Girardi even had to chase Burnett back to the dugout after he had gone down the runway to watch the rest of the inning. Burnett finally exited after the runners he left on base scored, which was a breach of baseball etiquette. Pitchers removed from the game are expected to stay in the dugout until the inning is completed.
It was just in Burnett’s previous start Monday night at Kansas City that Girardi coaxed the pitcher into his first August victory in three seasons by bringing in Boone Logan to get the final out of the sixth inning. Girardi was hoping that the 7-4 victory over the Royals had gotten Burnett over the hump. Getting scorched for seven earned runs, five hits, three walks and two wild pitches in his briefest outing since joining the Yankees just got Burnett back on a losing track.
In nine starts over the past two months, Burnett’s ERA is 7.21. He has given up 61 hits, including nine home runs, and thrown five wild pitches in 48 2/3 innings. His season ERA has gone from 4.05 to 4.96. Burnett has reason to be frustrated, but he shouldn’t be taking it out on his manager, who has been continually supportive of his continually struggling starter.
General manager Brian Cashman went even further before Burnett’s previous start by castigating the press for its criticism of Burnett and sticking his neck out with the claim that A.J.’s hefty contract is being held against him. He is in the third season of a five-year deal for $82.5 million. That’s a pretty tempting target on Burnett’s back, but the only way to shake off the critics is to pitch effectively, which the Yankees have waited patiently for him to do since 2009.
If Burnett was sore about the early gate Saturday night at Target Field where he received a sarcastic standing ovation, think of what the reaction from the crowd would have been had the game been at Yankee Stadium.
If they didn’t know better, Yankees fans might have thought post-season play had already started. Watching how easily the Yankees dismissed the Twins Friday night had to remind everybody of the American League Division Series games between these teams over the years.
The 8-1 victory marked the 15th time the Yankees have beaten Minnesota in their last 18 games and the 21st time in the past 24 overall games, including the Bombers’ three-game sweeps in the ALDS of 2010 and 2009. Throw in the four-game victories over the Twinkies in the ALDS of 2003 and ’04 and the Yanks have a 61-19 record against the Minnesota squads managed by Ron Gardenhire since 2002.
Frequent readers know how painful it for me to write this because of my regard for Gardenhire, who I have had the pleasure to know for 30 years going back to my time covering the Mets when he was a rising young infielder who never made it past the utility stage. Fact is, the numbers do not lie, and when it comes to numbers, the Yankees have the Twins’.
Minnesota has been devastated by injuries this year, but even when they were on all cylinders the Twins struggled against the Yankees. Friday night, they actually took the lead in the first inning on a home run by Trevor Plouffe off Phil Hughes. That would be the extend of the damage allowed by Hughes, who with each start has looked more and more like the pitcher who won 18 games a year ago.
Hughes didn’t allow another hit until one out in the eighth inning. Phil pitched into the eighth for the first time all season and has pitched six-plus innings in each of his past four starts, a stretch in which he has lowered his ERA from 9.47 to 5.45. Hughes had only two strikeouts, but he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 27 batters that put the Twins on the defensive all night.
It wasn’t that long ago that Hughes seemed headed for the bullpen as the odd man out of the rotation reduction from six starters to five. But with Bartolo Colon sputtering lately and Freddy Garcia on the disabled list because of a right index finger injury, Hughes isn’t going anywhere but back to the mound in another five days.
The Yankees had their fifth straight double-figure hit game on this trip with a 13-hit attack, highlighted by two home runs from Hughes’ catcher, Russell Martin. Target Field seems to play large for everyone but the Yanks, who have five home runs in two games.
Matching Martin with three RBI was Mark Teixeira, who had two doubles and a sacrifice fly to drive his season RBI total to 94, two behind club leader Curtis Granderson, who reached base four times with a double, a single and two walks. Robinson Cano doubled in a run to push his hitting streak to 11 games in which he is batting .375 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 48 at-bats.
Even hotter is Derek Jeter, who singled twice for his fifth straight multi-hit game and is hitting .415 in August and .292 for the season. He is batting .514 in 37 at-bats in an eight-game hitting streak and since returning from the DL is hitting .346 with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 26 RBI in 38 games in raising his season average 32 points in 159 at-bats.
It was looking like another rocky outing for CC Sabathia, who had lost his previous two starts, before the umpires threw a flag on a titanic, two-run home run by Justin Morneau in the first inning. Seemingly rejuvenated by the reversed call after viewing a video replay, which is getting to be a habit in Yankees games, Sabathia worked his way through a serviceable if unspectacular seven innings against the Twins and got back on a winning cycle.
Thursday night’s 8-4 victory by the Yankees was due largely to an offensive outburst that has been characteristic of this trip. They dented cavernous Target Field with three home runs among their 15 hits. The Yankees have reached double figures in all four games on the trip. Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher each connected with a man on, and Andruw Jones followed Swish with a bomb into the last row of the second deck of the three-tiered yard 434 feet from the plate.
Everbody had a hand in this one. Curtis Granderson tripled and singled twice. Eduardo Nunez had two hits and two runs. Derek Jeter had two more hits and Robinson Cano one. Francisco Cervelli singled in two runs. Brett Gardner had a scoring fly ball.
The rest was up to Sabathia, who was far from overpowering as the Twins sliced him up a bit with 10 hits, but the damage was not overly bloodletting – four runs, one of which was not earned due to Nunez’s 16th error (ouch). CC walked only one batter and struck out nine and was very much deserving of a victory that improved his record to 17-7 with a 2.96 ERA. The big guy is back in the American League Cy Young Award hunt.
David Robertson and Corey Wade supplied a perfect inning of relief apiece to put a nice bow on their latest victory away from home. The Yankees are 35-23 on the road this season, including 8-3 in August.
Morneau’s foul was easily the hardest hit ball off Sabathia, who got stronger inning after inning until the seventh when the Twins strung together three straight hits before the Nunez error. Joe Mauer drove in the second run of the inning, but Sabathia stiffened and got Morneau on a fly ball and Jim Thome to hit into the overshift and ground out to Cano positioned in shallow right field.
Nunez’s days at third base may be numbered now that Alex Rodriguez is back. A-Rod rejoined the team but has yet to be activated as the Yankees want to make sure he can go full throttle. There has been talk about Rodriguez being used more as a designated hitter, but he said before the game that he would help the team more at third base, which I concur. Using the DH slot to give him half a day off once or twice a week is one thing, but the Yankees also need his defense at third base on a regular basis.
Other speculation about how the lineup should look once A-Rod returns has centered on whether Teixeria should be moved out of the 3-hole to be replaced by Granderson or Cano. Why? With A-Rod back, the symmetry of the order would return by having a right-handed hitter (Jeter), followed by a left-handed hitter (Granderson), a switch hitter (Teixeira), a righty (Rodriguez), a lefty (Cano) and a switch hitter (Swisher). I don’t think manager Joe Girardi will change anything, and I don’t think he should.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, now Major League Baseball’s vice president for baseball operations, acknowledged Thursday that the umpires made the wrong call in the third inning Wednesday night at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium that credited Royals designated hitter Billy Butler with a home run. The run proved crucial as the Yankees lost, 5-4.
What was left unsaid was what Torre would have ruled had Yankees manager Joe Girardi lodged a protest over the umpires’ call. The only satisfaction Girardi got was that the umpiring crew at least reviewed the play on video replay, which did not help because they upheld the original ruling.
Girardi’s reputation as a clean Marine kind of guy worked against him here. He took crew chief Dana DeMuth at his word that he knew the ground rules. It turns out that DeMuth completely misinterpreted the ground rules. Right after the game, umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo met with the four umpires at the scene of the crime, a clear indication that something was amiss.
But since Girardi did not protest the upheld ruling before the next pitch, the Yankees had no recourse after the fact. They were left merely with the empty satisfaction of knowing they were correct in their objection to the call. You can be sure than a Billy Martin or a Lou Piniella would have protested the call on the spot. Girardi would have been wise to listen to his own first base coach, Mick Kelleher. He had been at the plate meeting before the first game of the series when ground rules at Kauffman were discussed and that issue specifically was addressed by Killer, who was told that a ball had to clear the green barrier to be considered a home run.
So what can the Yankees do about it now? Nothing. The best thing is to look ahead, not back. Yes, it was a one-run loss in a game in which the opposition got one more run than it should have. The Yankees had plenty of chances to win the game, but their starting pitcher, Bartolo Colon, struggled, and their hitters were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Jorge Posada kept his bat on the shoulder in making the last out of the game with the bases loaded.
That game is history. The Yankees need to regroup Thursday night in Minneapolis. There’s a good chance whoever was representing the Yankees in the pre-game meeting with the umpiring crew was paying extremely close attention to the ground rules at Target Field.
Regular readers will be familiar with my fondness for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, although the welcome mat I place for him at Yankee Stadium over the years hasn’t been matched by the Yankees. The Stadiums old and new have been horror houses to the affable skipper whom I have known since I covered him on the Mets in the early 1980s.
One of my responsibilities as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is to contact the winners of the annual awards as well as those elected to the Hall of Fame, and it was an absolute pleasure to break the news to Gardy last November that he had finally won the American League Manager of the Year Award after having finished second five times. I asked him where he had put the trophy.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Gardenhire said. “I’ll get my first look when we go back home after this series.”
Truth be told, the Manager of the Year trophies are not given out at the New York Baseball Writers Dinner with the other awards, Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year. Yes, the official presentations are made there, and the managers speak from the dais, but a token gift is handed to them. The shape of the trophy, which is impressive, is such that for some reason it does not travel well, so the BBWAA likes to send the trophy to what will be its final destination. In Gardenhire’s case, it was sent to Target Field in Minneapolis.
Trophies shipped to both Joe Torre when he won for the first time with the Yankees in 1996 and Joe Girardi when he won the National League award with the Marlins in 2006 cracked during transport, and each had to be replaced. Gardenire might have expected a damaged trophy if the writers have given it to him at Yankee Stadium.
Gardy’s record here is nothing short of horrible – 4-25 during the regular season and 2-5 in the AL Division Series. Awards voting is done prior to the start of post-season play, so the Yanks’ sweep of the Twins was not a road block for Gardenhire.
Writers took into account that Gardenhire did not have one of his former MVP players, first baseman Justin Morneau, for the second half of the season. Morneau suffered a concussion July 7 at Toronto and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Morneau’s situation still bears monitoring, and Gardenhire applauds Major League Baseball for establishing a new disabled list rule regarding players with concussions.
A player sustaining a concussion may not be placed on a seven-day DL, which would allow a team to replace him without putting the onus for the injured play to suck up what has proved a serious condition so as not to let down his teammates. If the player needs to remain on the DL for the full 15 days, the period can begin retroactively.
“It’s an important step for baseball,” Gardy said. “We didn’t know much about concussions in the old days. I was knocked out twice in my career and played the next day. In one case, I kept on playing in the game that I was knocked out.”
Gardenhire recalled that while playing shortstop for the Tidewater Tides, then the Mets’ Triple A affiliate, against the Columbus Clippers, then the Yankees’ top farm, he was struck in the head with a pitch and lost consciousness.
“When I came to,” he said, “they asked me if I wanted to keep playing. ‘Sure,’ I said. No one wants to come out of the lineup. So I kept on playing. Of course, I don’t remember anything about the rest of the game. A rule like this goes a long way to understanding this condition.”
Also in Minnesota’s traveling party is the newest Hall of Famer, Bert Blyleven, the 287-game winner as a pitcher and the long-time television analyst for the Twins. Bert told me he is enjoying his “Blyleven in ‘11” year and brings good news about another Twins Hall of Famer.
Harmon Killebrew, the former slugger who is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Target Field Friday for the Twins’ home opener against Oakland.
The New York Chapter of the BBWAA honored Killebrew with its Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award in recognition of his outstanding 1961 season that was overshadowed by the Roger Maris-Mickey Mantle chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record. He was unable to attend the dinner, and Gardenhire accepted in his place. The writers have an open invitation for Killebrew to attend the dinner next January, and we’re rooting for him to be able to make it.
The Yankees took a different approach Saturday night in their post-season matchup with Minnesota – they scored first.
The Yankees’ modus operandi in playoff games against the Twins is to fall behind early and come back late. The Twinkies haven’t been able to hold leads throughout this post-season drought against the Yankees that had reached eight games after the Yanks won the first two games of the American League Division Series earlier in the week at Target Field.
The Yankees treated Yankee Stadium fans by drawing first blood in the second inning of Game 3 against Twins lefthander Brian Duensing. Robinson Cano, who hit .285 with 13 home runs off lefties this year and had an RBI single off lefthander Francisco Liriano in Game 1, led off the second inning with a triple. The slicing drive eluded center fielder Denard Span, who had to run the ball down when it caromed off the wall back toward the infield.
After Marcus Thames popped out, Jorge Posada lined a first-pitch changeup into left field for a single to score Cano. An announcement was made in the press box stating that it was Posada’s 41st RBI in post-season play as he passed Mickey Mantle on the career list.
This is a pet peeve of mind, so I may as well get it off my chest now. No criticism of Posada is intended here, but to compare his post-season RBI with those of Mantle is ridiculous. All of Mickey’s RBI were in the World Series. His last season in the majors was 1968, the year before divisional play began and an additional level of post-season play was added. Since 1995 when the wild card was added, post-season play has had three levels.
The format change has played havoc with post-season records, particularly those established when there was only the World Series, such as Mantle’s 18 home runs and Yogi Berra’s 71 hits. To equate World Series statistics with those in the first round of the playoffs is irrational. They should be kept separately.
For the record, Posada’s breakdown in post-season RBI is 14 in the Division Series, 16 in the Championship Series and 11 in the World Series.
The Yankees kept up the scoring over the next two innings threatening to make this a rout. They got a two-out run in the third when Nick Swisher doubled and Mark Teixeira singled. Thames hit an opposite-field home run in the fourth for two more runs.
Also scoring on the blow was Cano, who beat out an infield single. On the play, first baseman Michael Cuddyer’s hurried throw went past Duensing and struck Yankees first base coach Mick Kelleher in the, well, let’s just hope coaches wear cups.
Duensing was replaced after walking Curtis Granderson, who subsequently stole second, continued to third on an errant throw by catcher Joe Mauer and scored on a fly ball to left by Brett Gardner for a 5-0 Yankees lead. It was Minnesota that had to do the catching up now.
The Yankees are on the cusp of advancing to the American League Championship Series by putting the Twins on the ropes in Game 2 of the ALDS, a 5-2 victory that was fashioned by the Core Four and the guru work of hitting coach Kevin Long.
Andy Pettitte corrected some mechanical sloppiness early and retired the side in order in five of his seven innings. His efficient 88-pitch outing belied the fact that Pettitte had worked only 13 1/3 innings since mid-July and gave up 19 hits in his previous 7 1/3 innings. Andy improved his remarkable post-season record to 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA.
His catcher, Jorge Posada, did not get a hit, but he worked out a walk on a full count leading off the seventh against the Twins’ Carl Pavano that began a two-run rally as the Yankees regained the lead.
Derek Jeter, still waiting to score his 100th post-season run, collected his 56th post-season RBI by poking a single to right in that seventh for a run and chasing Pavano. Jeter also sparkled in the field, especially in the first inning with an acrobatic maneuver at second base to complete a double play on the speedy Orlando Hudson.
Finishing it off was Mariano Rivera for the second straight night with his 41st career post-season save and No. 600 including his regular-season work.
How many times have we seen this over the years? The Yankees dust up another team’s closer but nobody gets to theirs. It happened again in the ninth inning. The Yanks picked up an insurance run against Matt Capps while the Twins did little against Mo in the bottom half other than the teasing leadoff single by Joe Mauer, who was erased on a double play.
Where Long’s handiwork comes in are the offensive contributions of reclamation projects Curtis Granderson and Lance Berkman. Both struggled this year and worked closely with Long to correct their swings.
Granderson quieted his hands which allowed him to get to the ball quicker. While he hit only .251 in 171 at-bats since Long began working with him intensely in August, Granderson displayed more power, slugging .544 with six doubles, one triple and 14 home runs. He tripled in two big runs in Game 1 and scored the Yankees’ first run in the second game. Granderson doubled off the right field wall and scored on a fly ball by Alex Rodriguez.
A leadoff single in the sixth was wasted as the Yankees failed to get him home, but Granderson got that insurance run in the ninth with a single to center that scored Brett Gardner, who had singled, crossed to second on an infield out and stole third.
Berkman, obtained from Houston at the trading deadline, was engulfed in a season-long slump and heard choruses of boos instead of welcoming cheers at Yankee Stadium. During a stint on the disabled list, Berkman worked with Long on his stride and hit .299 over the last month of the season although with not much power – one home run and five RBI in 67 at-bats.
Berkman, in his first post-season game since the 2005 World Series for the Astros, got his power back with two extra-base hits. He uncoupled a 1-1 score with a home run in the fifth, an impressive blow to left-center in homer-stingy Target Field. Two innings later, he unlocked a 2-2 score with a double that scored Posada. Jeter got Berkman home with his hit.
It all added up to the Yankees heading home with a chance to close the series out Saturday night at the Stadium. So who’s the underdog now?