Tagged: Jason Kubel

Tanaka Has Just Enough As Yankees Edge Twins

GAME 26

YANKEES 5, TWINS 4

Sometimes the difference between good pitchers and great pitchers is how great pitchers deal with the fact that they do not have their best stuff that given day. Masahiro Tanaka proved on Saturday he can succeed on a day when he does not have command of his pitches.

Tanaka (1-0) yielded three runs on five hits and a walk and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings and the Yankees scored four runs in the fourth inning to back him up as New York won its seven straight Grapefruit League game by edging Minnesota in front of a record crowd of 9.298 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.

The Twins got to Tanaka in the bottom of the first when Brian Dozier led off with a double, he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a RBI groundout by Joe Mauer.

Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, the Twins scored two more runs off Tanaka when Kurt Suzuki singled, Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch, Jason Kubel stroked an RBI double to score Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe scored Willingham on a groundout.

That ended Tanaka’s afternoon and relievers Fred Lewis, David Herndon, Shane Greene and Yoshinori Tateyama held the Twins to one hit and one run the rest of the way.

Despite giving up a solo home run to Eduardo Escobar in the ninth inning, Tateyama was credited with a save.

The Yankees managed only one hit in the first three innings off Twins right-hander Kevin Correia (1-2). But they sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs off him in the fourth.

After loading the bases with one out by hitting Francisco Cervelli with a pitch, Correia unloaded a wild pitch allowing Eduardo Nunez to score the tying run. Scott Sizemore, in the same at-bat, followed with a two-run single to score Kelly Johnson and Cervelli.

Zelous Wheeler capped the inning one out later by drilling an RBI double that scored Sizemore.

The Yankees added what was an insurance  run in the seventh off reliever Anthony Swarzak. But it ended up being the game-deciding run.

Zoilo Almonte led off the frame with a double and Wheeler followed with a single. One batter later, Raybell Herrera, a catcher who was added to the traveling squad and was making his first plate appearance of the spring, slapped an RBI single that scored Almonte.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-9-2. The Twins are 7-12.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Tanaka was far from dominant, he did show that he could pitch his way out of trouble and limit the damage. He held the Twins to just the one run in the first after the leadoff double. With the bases loaded and two out in the third inning, he retired Willingham on a fly ball to left. There were stretches in his outing where he retired six and seven batters in a row, respectively. The bottom line is held the lead when he got it and he got credit for the victory.
  • Sizemore, 29, is trying to make the Yankees’ roster after suffering two straight seasons in which he had to undergo surgery to repair ligament tears in the same right knee. He also is not likely to make the roster as a backup infielder because he needs to more reps in the minors. But he did come through a clutch two-run single in the fourth. Sizemore is 4-for-5 (.267) on the spring.
  • Wheeler, 27, is also trying to make the team as a backup infielder and he also can play the corner outfield spots. He was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI. Wheeler is now 11-for-32 (.344) with seven doubles and six RBIs in 20 games. But Wheeler also is not likely to make the team because Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte are playing well and are ahead of him.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Considering the Yankees brought only two starters (Brett Gardner and Johnson), the fact that Tanaka was not at his best and the Twins were a determined bunch, the Yankees found a way to win. Every team has days like this and the Yankees proved they could adapt. There is nothing wrong with that.

BOMBER BANTER

Cervelli took an absolute beating in the game. The 28-year-old backup took two foul tips to the groin and was hit on the left hand by a pitch from Correia in the fourth inning. Cervelli, however, remained in the game until he was replaced by Jose Gil in the seventh inning.  . . .  The Yankees won a crucial replay challenge in the third inning that ended up helping them win the game. With Aaron Hicks on first after a leadoff single, Pedro Florimon at the plate and no outs, Hicks attempted to steal second. As Florimon swung at strike three, Cervelli threw a perfect strike to Sizemore at second. Hicks, however, stopped his right foot in the baseline and swung his left foot onto the base as Sizemore swept his right leg with the tag. Umpire Marvin Hudson ruled Hicks was safe. Manager Joe Girardi got word that Hicks was tagged on the right shin by Sizemore and he challenged the call. Within two minutes the call was reversed. Had the call stood the play would have changed the outcome because the Twins ended up loading the bases.

ON DECK

The Yankees will come back to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday to play host to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Yankees will start 25-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda, who has a chance to nail down the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. Pineda (2-0) has not allowed a run in nine innings in three starts, giving up just eight hits and walk while striking out 14.

The Blue Jays will counter with veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle (0-1, 3.60 ERA), who will be celebrating his 35th birthday.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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Nova Extinguishes Flames To Shut Out Twins

GAME 125

YANKEES 3, TWINS 0

For five innings the Twins and Yankees seemed to be not getting the whole ABC offense thing of (A) get them on, (B) get them over and (C) get them in. They each did OK on the A and B part but neither could pull the trigger on C.

Fortunately, for the Yankees, the Twins never did get it and the Yankees found a way to win utilizing some timely offense and geting great pitching from rookie right-hander Ivan Nova and their bullpen.

New York managed to shut out Minnesota at their home in Target Field on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 41,242 and a national television audience watching on TBS.

Nova (13-4) held the Twins hitless through three innings until Joe Mauer stroked a lined single to right with one out in the fourth. He was promptly erased in a double play.

But over the next three innings, the Twins kept mounting threats against Nova only to be stymied.

In the fifth, the Twins got a leadoff single from Jim Thome and Danny Valencia lofted a fly ball that dropped between and rolled past Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher for a double. Using his wicked slider, Nova was able to strike out Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert and Drew Butera rolled out to end the threat.

In the sixth, Mauer smashed a two-out single and Jason Kubel drew a walk. However, Nova shut the Twins down by striking out slugger Jim Thome.

In the seventh, Valencia opened the inning with a single to center. But Nova retired the next three batters on flyball outs.

The Yankees, meanwhile, could not seem to get a big hit when they needed it off starter Nick Blackburn or reliever Anthony Swarzak.

In the first inning, Jeter led off with an infield single and reached second on a passed ball by Butera. Curtis Granderson then drew a walk. However, Mark Teixeira rolled into a double play and Alex Rodriguez, playing in his first game since before the All-Star break due to right knee surgery, bounced out to short.

In he next inning, with one out Blackburn walked Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner in succession to load the bases. On the final pitch to Gardner ,Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the Twins’ trainer sprinted to the mound and Blackburn left the game with what was termed a lateral forearm strain.

Swarzak entered the game and promptly struck out Eduardo Nunez and Jeter lined out to end that threat.

The Yankees then did not get a hit or walk off Swarzak over the next two innings but they did load the bases with two out in the fifth off left-handed reliever Phil Dumatrait. However, Dumatrait was able to get Rodriguez to pop up weakly to end that threat.

Through five innings, the Yankees were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and they had left seven runners on base, including two innings in which they left the bases loaded.

But the Twins ran out of miracles in the sixth. Robinson Cano lashed an opposite-field double to start the inning. Swisher hit a long fly ball to left that Tosoni caught but Cano was able to tag up and reach third. Cano then scored on a sacrifice line drive smash to center by Russell Martin, his fourth RBI in the three games he played in the series.

The Yankees padded the lead in the next inning by using some fast legs and powerful wrists.

Facing reliever Jose Mijares with one out, Granderson stroked a lined shot off the very top of the wall in right-center and the ball rolled back towards the infield between center-fielder Ben Revere and right-fielder Jason Kubel. By the time Revere got on his horse to retrieve the ball and relayed a throw to Trevor Plouffe, Granderson was heading for home plate. Granderson beat the throw from Plouffe and the tag of Butera for an inside-the-park home run. It was Granderson 35th home run of the season and the third inside-the-park home run of his career.

Teixeira followed with his 34th home run of the season. This one was the traditional over-the-fence kind that landed in the left-field bleachers.

The Yankees protected that 3-0 margin with Nova and bullpen. Nova pitched seven innings and gave up only five hits and one walk and he fanned five batters for his ninth victory in his last 10 starts. He is 9-0 with a 3.48 ERA in those starts. Since his demotion to Triple-A in July, Nova is 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA.

David Robertson continued the Twins’ offensive frustration in the eighth. Robertson gave up singles to Revere and Mauer (Mauer’s third hit of the game) sandwiched by a strikeout. After fanning Kubel for the second out, Robertson walked Thome to load the bases. However, Robertson, who is called “Houdini” by his teammates because of how he escapes bases-loaded jams, got Valencia to hit a routine fly ball that Swisher caught in medium right to end yet another threat.

The Twins left nine runners on and they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the day.

Mariano Rivera was called upon to close out the game out and he did that by pitching a perfect ninth. He fanned the last two batters to collect his 33rd save in 38 chances and No. 592 in his career.

With the victory, the Yankees’ record improved to 77-48 and they also maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Twins lost three of the four games in the series and fell to 55-71 on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Martin had a good series offensively and defensively. He was 4-for-10 with two home runs and four RBIs. He was 1-for-2 on Sunday with walk, a single and his sac fly scored what was the eventual winning run. Martin also played exceptional defense behind the plate. He called good games for Hughes and Nova, deterred the Twins on the bases and blocked balls in the dirt that saved runs from scoring. Martin stopped two balls in the dirt for Nova with a runner on third in the fifth inning on Sunday. Martin won a Gold Glove in the National League with the Dodgers in 2007.
  • Granderson’s fast feet set him apart from the other candidates for A.L. Most Valuable Player and he showed that skill off on Sunday with his inside-the-park home run. That home run ties him with Toronto’s Jose Bautista for the major-league lead in homers. Despite going 0-for-4 on Saturday, Granderson was 6-for-16 (.375) in the series with a home run and three RBIs. Granderson is tied with Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder for the major-league lead in RBIs with 98.
  • Teixiera’s home run was his second in the series and he also pulled into second place in the American League to Granderson in RBIs with 95. Cano is fourth with 87. Teixiera was 5-for-12 (.417) in the series with two home runs and six RBIs.
  • Nova is pitching far beyond what anyone expected from a 24-year-old rookie. To be sure, Nova has received a lot of run support in his starts. But on Sunday he proved he could win games without it. He pitched five innings of a scoreless game, an inning with a one-run cushion and one with a 3-0 lead. Four of his five strikeouts in the game came with runners in scoring position. That tells you all you need to know about Nova. He is very quietly pitching himself into position to start in the playoffs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • In four previous times in which he played his first game coming off the disabled list, Rodriguez had homered in the game. On three occasions, it came in his first at-bat. But that did not happen on Sunday. A-Rod was 0-for-5 and he committed a misplay in the field, though it was not scored an error. To his credit he did make a great play in scooping a bunt attempt by Revere and barely nipping him at first in the sixth inning.
  • Teixeira’s double play grounder in the first and Nunez’ strikeout with the bases loaded in the second really set the early tone in the game. It truly looked as if the Yankees would not score a run because they kept shooting themselves in the foot. They did finish the game 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and they left 10 runners on base.
  • It is amazing how Robertson is able to load the bases and escape without giving up a run. However, there is nothing wrong with 1-2-3 innings. As it is, Robertson threw 27 pitches in the inning. It is a good thing the Yankees do not play on Monday because Robertson likely would be unavailable to pitch.

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi try to play down the incident between A.J. Burnett and himself that occurred when Burnett was removed from Saturday’s game after only 1 2/3 innings. Burnett shouted an obscenity at Girardi as he left the mound and later Girardi and Burnett both disappeared down the dugout tunnel. Girardi insisted there was no riff and he did hear Burnett say anything after he left the mound. He also said the two did not cross paths in the clubhouse. But Burnett appears to be on very thin ice of being the odd sixth man in what will be a five-man rotation. Burnett gave up seven runs on five hits and three walks in his short stint on Saturday. In addition, Burnett has won only one of his his last nine starts dating back to July 4. In those outings, Burnett is 1-4 with a 6.93 ERA. He was 10-15 with a career-high 5.26 ERA in 2010. To say that the Yankees made a mistake giving Burnett an $82 million contract in 2009 is an understatement.  . . .  When the Yankees activated Rodriguez from the disabled list they sent down left-hander Aaron Laffey to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Laffey made his debut with the Yankees on Saturday and gave up two runs on five hits in three innings.

ON DECK

Off winning three out of four from the Twins and posting a 5-2 road trip, the Yankees will get a day off on Monday. They will host the Oakland Athletics in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium starting on Tuesday.

The Yankees will open the series with right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-7, 3.54 ERA). Colon lost his first start since July 19 as he allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings against Kansas City. He is 0-1 with a 5.17 ERA in August. He is 8-4 with a 2.80 ERA against Oakland in his career . Two of those wins came in his two starts against them season, including a May 30 complete-game, four-hit shutout in Oakland.

The A’s will counter with Brandon McCarthy (6-6, 3.74 ERA). McCarthy gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings in a victory against Baltimore in his last start. He is 1-0 with a 7.36 ERA lifetime against the Yankees He has not faced them this season.

Game-time will be at 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by MY9.

 

Martin’s Bat, Hughes’ Arm Muzzle Poor Twins

GAME 123

YANKEES 8, TWINS 1

Watching the Twins play the Yankees the past few years is like watching the Washington Generals play the Harlem Globetrotters. You just knew Meadowlark Lemon would always get the best of that bald, fat guy trying to grab the basketball from him.

At Target Field, on a picturesque Midwest Friday evening, the same kind of scenario played out.

Phil Hughes (4-4) pitched 7 2/3 innings of dominant one-run and two-hit baseball, Russell Martin hit two home runs and Martin and Mark Teixeira drove in three runs apiece as New York best Minnesota for the 21st time in their last 24 meetings since the beginning of the 2009 season.

Hughes gave up a solo home run to Trevor Plouffe, the second batter he faced, in the first inning and then he silenced the Twins bats so soundly that could you practically hear the crickets over the 41,328 people in attendance. After Hughes issued a leadoff walk to Jason Kubel in the third inning, he retired 14 Twins in a row.

The Twins managed a Plouffe leadoff walk in the seventh and they actually added another runner when Kubel walked with two out in the inning. But Hughes escaped any damage by inducing Danny Valencia to ground into a forceout.

The Twins did manage a second hit by Luke Hughes with one out in the eighth, but Yankee right-hander — with relief help from Boone Logan — left the game having walked three and striking out two. Hughes threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes, a rate of 66 percent. In his last three starts, Hughes is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA.

He and A.J. Burnett both have been rumored to be candidates to move to the bullpen because the Yankees have six starters and they prefer a five-man rotation. But Hughes served notice on Friday that he not only should stay in the rotation, he might be the Yankees’ best choice for a No. 2 starter.

Meanwhile, after trailing 1-0 early to the Twins, the Yankees began their assault on Twins starter Kevin Slowey (0-1) in the third inning of what was Slowey’s first start of the season.

Martin opened the inning by swatting the first pitch from Slowey down the left-field line and into the first row of the bleachers, the ball avoiding a leaping attempt at the wall by left-fielder Rene Tosoni.

The Yankees added another run in the fourth on a bloop leadoff double by Teixeira and a lined RBI double off the wall in right-center by Robinson Cano.

The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth on a double by Granderson that drove in Brett Gardner with Granderson’s major-league-leading 96th RBI of the season. Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to left that Derek Jeter scored upon by narrowly evading a good throw by Tosoni and a lunging tag by catcher Joe Mauer.

The Yankees broke the game wide open in the fifth and chased Slowey from the game when Martin followed a Jorge Posada’s two-out single with another home run, this one to deep into the bleachers in straightway left. It was his 15th home run of the season. The two-home run game was the fourth of Martin’s career and his third such game with the Yankees this season.

Slowey ended up giving up six runs on nine hits and one walk and struck out four batters over 5 2/3 innings. In their last two games, the Yankees have scored 12 runs on 19 hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings against the Twins two starters in the series — Brian Duensing and Slowey.

The Yankees tacked on a pair of runs in the ninth off reliever Anthony Swarzak on leadoff infield single by Jeter, a walk to Granderson and two-run double down the right-field line by Teixeira.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to an American League-best 76-47 and they maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East. The hapless Twins stumbled to a mark of 54-70.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Martin continues to excel after he gets a day off. Nine of his home runs have come in games after he was rested. His 3-for-4 evening (He also singled in the fifth) raised his season average to .232. He now has 15 home runs and 52 RBIs on the season. After hitting .292 in April, Martin slumped to hit .200 in May, .185 in June and .213 in July. But Martin is hitting a solid .269 in August and he seems to have put his toe and back injuries behind him.
  • In his two games against the Twins at Target Field, Teixeira is 4-for-7 with a home run and three doubles and he has driven in five runs. The RBI spurt leaves in third place in the majors with 94, two behind Gramderson and one behind Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
  • Granderson had another one of his stellar all-around games. He was 2-for-3 with a double, a single, two walks, a run scored and an RBI. He even stole his 23rd base of the season, which puts him in 10th place in the American League. Granderson is by far the Yankees’ Most Valuable Player of 2011. He also might take home league honors if he keeps up his current pace. In his last 10 games, Granderson is hitting an unbelievable .395 with six home runs and 10 RBIs.
  • Hughes appears to have kept his spot in the rotation on the basis of what how has pitched in his last three starts. Though it would be nice to have Hughes in a bullpen that already includes David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, he is more valuable as the No. 2 starter on this team with the playoffs looming.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Eric Chavez was 0-for-5 with two srikeouts but that would be nitpicking. This was a good win for the Yankees because it combined great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees decided on Friday to place right-hander Freddy Garcia on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8 and claimed left-hander Aaron Laffey on waivers from the Mariners and he will be activated on Saturday. To make room on the 40-man roster for Laffey, the Yankees designated veteran catcher Gustavo Molina for assignment. Garcia sliced a finger on his right hand at his home last week and he was unable to throw his split-finger fastball effectively enough to make a start this weekend. Instead, Garcia will throw a rehab start on Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Yankees hope the 34-year-old right-hander will be able to make a start next Saturday in one of the day-night doubleheader games scheduled against the Orioles.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez is ready to play this weekend but it likely will be on Sunday. Rodriguez ended a minor-league rehab stint and returned to the Yankees on Thursday. However, the Yankees want Rodriguez to continue his workouts to strengthen his knee and improve his conditioning. Rodriguez has been out since undergoing surgery on July 11 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

ON DECK

The Yankees have already clinched at least a split in their four-game series with the Twins. They can win the series on Saturday.

The Yankees will call on right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-9, 4.61). The walking enigma actually won his last start, his first August victory in three years with the Yankees. Burnett gave up 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings but allowed only three runs while walking one and striking out one. Burnett, howver, has had some success against the Twins. He is 4-1 with a 3.20 ERA in his career.

The Twins are countering with left-hander Francisco Liriano (8-9, 5.12 ERA). He is the Twins’ enigma. Liriano won his last start but he gave up five runs on nine hits over six innings. He is 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Hughes Answers Doubters As Yanks Sweep Twins Again

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 3
YANKEES 6, TWINS 1

The baseball pundits’ mantra entering this postseason was: The Yankees have CC Sabathia and a lot of question marks in their starting rotation.
Phil Hughes’ reply on Saturday evening was to pitch seven dominant innings of shutout baseball to eliminate the Minnesota Twins and put an exclamation point after the sentence: The Yankees rotation in this ALDS was 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA!
With the victory the Yankees qualified for the American League Championship Series for the second time in two seasons and it was the first time they have advanced in the AL playoffs as a wild card.
The Yankees also eliminated the Twins from the playoffs for the fourth time in four meetings since 2003 and they have defeated the Twins in nine consecutive postseason games, the longest such stretch of domination in major-league history between two teams.
Hughes (1-0) is participating in his third postseason with the Yankees but had never started a postseason game until Saturday. If he had any nerves he never showed it as he mowed the Twins down in order for the first three innings.
He gave up a leadoff single to Denard Span to start the fourth but Span was erased on a double play off the bat of Orlando Hudson on the next pitch. 
The Twins put two runners on in the fifth on a one-out single by Delmon Young and veteran DH Jim Thome drew a walk. But Hughes struck out Michael Cuddyer and induced rookie third baseman Danny Valencia to pop out to Mark Teixeira to end the threat.
The Twins also mounted a two-out threat in the sixth when Hudson and Joe Mauer stroked singles that both just eluded Cano’s leaps. However, Hughes fanned Jason Kubel to end that frame.
Hughes threw 99 pitches and 67 of them were strikes. He gave up four hits and one walk and struck out six batters with an electric fastball that the Twins’ hitters could not center. 
While Hughes was throwing up zeros, the Yankees were having their way with left-hander Brian Duensing (0-1). 
The Yankees scored single runs in the second and third innings on RBI singles by Jorge Posada and Teixeira to stake Hughes to an early 2-0 lead. Posada’s RBI was the 41st of his career and moved him past Mickey Mantle to ninth on the all-time list.
The Yankees expanded that lead and chased Duensing in the fourth inning when Cano opened the inning with an infield hit and DH Marcus Thames followed with a two-run blast into bleachers in right-center to put the Yankees up 4-0.
But the Yankees tacked on another run that inning when Curtis Granderson drew a one-out walk, which ended Duensing’s night early. Granderson stole second on Twins reliever Mark Guerrier and took third when Mauer’s throw to second trickled into center-field.
It was the first and only error of the series between these two teams, which were also the top two teams in the AL in committing the fewest errors. (The Yankees were first and the Twins were second).
The error came back to take a big bite out of the snakebit Twins, too. Gardner then lofted a fly ball to left-field that scored Granderson with the Yankees’ fifth run.
Duensing was charged for all five runs on seven hits and a walk in 3 1/3 innings. Duensing is 0-2 in two postseason starts. Both losses have come to the Yankees. Duensing lost Game 1 of the 2009 AL Division Series to the Yankees in what also would eventually become a 3-0 sweep.
Nick Swisher made it a half-dozen-run lead in the seventh inning with a leadoff home run off Twins right-hander Scott Baker. 
The Yankees then turned to their bullpen in the eighth inning to close out the game. However, the usually reliable Kerry Wood instead decided to pay homage to much-maligned former Yankees’ setup man Kyle Farnsworth.
Wood gave up a leadoff double off the left-field wall to Valencia. Then, with one out, he gave up a single to Span and Hudson followed with an RBI single to score Valencia and spoil the shutout bid. Wood dug a further hole by walking Mauer to load the bases.
However, the Yankee bullpen, which has been so reliable since the All-Star break, came to Wood’s rescue.
Left-hander Boone Logan threw one pitch to Jason Kubel and retired the lefty slugger on a weak popup to Alex Rodriguez at third. Manager Joe Girardi then summoned right-hander David Robertson to face the right-handed-hitting Young.
On Robertson’s third pitch Young flied out harmlessly to Granderson in center and the Twins lost their last good chance to climb their way back into the game and the series.
Girardi, taking no chances, used All-Star closer Mariano Rivera to polish off the game and the series. Rivera needed only 12 pitches to put away the Twins quietly in order in the ninth.
As Valencia lofted a two-out fly to Gardner in left, a majority of the 50,840 fans at Yankee Stadium — who were on their feet throughout the inning — cheered their defending champions, who are now four victories away from their 41st World Series appearance.
For the Twins, it was the fifth time they have been eliminated in the first round and the fourth time the Yankees were the culprit. The hits by Span and Hudson off Wood in the eighth were their only two hits in the series the Twins had with runners in scoring position. In the series they were 2-for-16 (.125). The Yankees, by contrast, were 9-for-25 (.360).
The Yankees, who refused to celebrate the clinching of a playoff spot or their entry into the ALDS as a wild card in the playoffs, popped the corks of champagne in their clubhouse in their first celebration of the first step on their quest for the 28th world championship.
The Yankees must now await the winner of the Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers series to find out where they will be open the AL Championship Series. The Rangers currently lead the best-of-five series 2-1.
Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday.
The Yankees, in the meantime, will have time to get some rest for their veterans and those players who have been hobbled by nagging injuries. In addition, they can reset their rotation for the best-of-seven ALCS with Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes scheduled to pitch in that order.
I just have one question for the baseball pundits: Are these question marks after Sabathia (Pettitte and Hughes) pitching well enough for you to stop questioning them, please? 

Rivera’s Cutter Shattered Span’s Bat And Twins’ Hopes

GAME 1 KEY MOMENT
The Minnesota Twins entered the eighth inning of Wednesday’s Game 1 trailing the New York Yankees 6-4 and knowing that time was running out if they wanted to make a comeback. The Yankees turned to reliever Kerry Wood to pitch the inning and to be the bridge to Mariano Rivera.

Wood started the inning by striking out Michael Cuddyer swinging. But he ran into trouble by walking Jason Kubel and allowing an infield single to rookie Danny Valencia. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire inserted pinch-runners Jason Repko and Matt Tolbert to relace Kubel and Valencia and No. 9 hitter J.J. Hardy advanced them by grounding out to second baseman Robinson Cano for the second out.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi summoned Rivera from the bullpen to face lefty swinging leadoff hitter Denard Span and this proved to be the key moment of Game 1.
To say Rivera is the dominant reliever of the modern baseball era is putting it mildly. Rivera entered Wednesday’s game with 39 postseason saves. The next closest reliever to him is the Phillies’ closer Brad Lidge with – get this – 16!
But the Twins knew this two-out opportunity with runners at second and third was their best chance to, not only tie the game, but to make a statement they were in this series to end the domination of the Yankees.
Rivera started Span off with his patented cutter inside on the hands of Span, however, Span laid off and the pitch was way inside.
Down 1-0, Rivera tried another cutter inside but lower in the strike zone. Span chose to let it go and it too was called a ball by home-plate umpire Jerry Crawford.
Span geared up for something to hit, knowing he was up in the count 2-0. Catcher Jorge Posada, sticking to the scouting report on Span, signaled for another cutter inside. But the great Rivera, known for his impeccable control, missed inside once again.
Could this be the moment the Twins had finally seized control? Another ball would load the bases for Orlando Hudson. A base hit to the outfield would tie the game.
Posada and Rivera stuck to the game plan and tried yet another cutter inside. Though the pitch actually missed the strike zone, Crawford gave Rivera the strike call. 
Rivera kept the pressure on by aiming yet another cutter inside. Span was tied up and the ball darted down and in as he swung. He fouled it off harmlessly off to the right.
Full count.
Though Rivera has been known to try to back-door two-seam fastballs to the outside corner, Posada called for a sixth consecutive cutter inside and Rivera nodded in agreement. With 42,302 fans watching and most of them on their feet at Target Field, Rivera went into his stretch and bent at the waist to his set.
With the game and the lead on the line Rivera again threw his bread-and-butter cutter. Span, protecting the plate on the full count, swung his bat. But the darting cutter jammed him and the bat practically shattered on contact.
As Span sped from the batter’s box down the line, the ball rolled slowly to shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter, knowing Span had great speed, charged the ball hard, picked it out of his glove and threw in one motion to first.
Though it looked at first that Span might beat it, Jeter’s laser-like throw to first baseman Mark Teixeira reached Teixeira’s glove a step before Span hit the first base bag. First-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt raised his right arm and called Span out.
Gardenhire, his team and the Twins fans collectively groaned as Rivera headed to the Yankees’ dugout. The future Hall of Fame closer would later pitch a “four-out” ninth inning to record his 40th postseason save and the Yankees would take Game 1 and wrest home-field advantage away from the Twins in the best-of-five series.

Royals Blank Rays To Hand First Place Back To Yanks

GAME 160
YANKEES at RED SOX (POSTPONED, RAIN)

Nobody warmed up in the bullpen at Fenway Park and no one took any swings in batting practice, yet the New York Yankees reclaimed first place in the American League East.
The reason: The Tampa Bay Rays, seemingly so giddy about their return to the postseason, they have forgotten how to pitch, hit and field in Kansas City.
Bruce Chen, a 33-year-old journeyman left-hander who signed a minor-league contract with the Royals this off-season, dazzled the Rays with a two-hit complete-game shutout on Friday for his first major-league shutout. It was the second straight Rays’ loss to the Royals in the four-game series.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were hanging out at Fenway for three hours waiting for the game to be postponed. It will now be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader beginning at 4:10 p.m. on Saturday.
The Rays have now lost five of their past six games and they perhaps ceded some of the control they have on that tiebreaker they own with the Yankees if they end up tied in the American League East.
Truth be told, the Yankees likely would not mind being the wild-card team and losing home-field advantage in the AL playoffs if they could avoid Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers, who would await them if they won the division.
Oh, manager Joe Girardi talks a good game about how home field is important because the alternative would be face the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, where they own the best home record in baseball.
However, the Yankees are Kryptonite to the Twins. 
The Yankees managed three walk-off wins in a single four-game series at Yankee Stadium last season. They also swept them in the old Metrodome. Then they rolled them out of the playoffs in three straight games last season like they were bugs on the windshield.
Things have not been much different this season.
The Yankees have won four of six with the Twins this season and the four wins have come with a combined score of 17-7. The one loss at Yankee Stadium came from a grand slam home run by Jason Kubel off Mariano Rivera, in one of the All-Star closer’s rare meltdowns.
The other loss at Target Field came from Kubel’s two home runs and five RBIs off Javier Vazquez and the back end of the Yankees bullpen.
Neither scenario figures to befall the Yankees this time. Rivera rarely loses his edge in the playoffs and Vazquez may not even make the postseason roster. He certainly will not start any of the games.
As for Kubel, he has hit all of .173 since Sept. 1 with three home runs and 11 RBIs and he is hitting just .231 since the All-Star break.
The Twins have just got back an injured Joe Mauer behind the plate and there are rumors Justin Morneau will give it a go despite missing close to three months with a post-concussion syndrome. The question remains, how good can Morneau be in not facing live pitching since July 7?
If the Yankees can handle the Twins with Morneau at 100%, it stands to reason they just as easily beat the Twins without him or with him at 75%.
So the Yankees will have to make up their collective minds how much the A.L. East and home-field advantage means when the price comes at facing Cliff Lee in Game 1. 
Lee is Kryptonite to the Yankees and it would be a scary prospect depending on a rusty Andy Pettitte and a young Phil Hughes to get the Yankees must wins in Games 2 and 3 against a Rangers offense that boasts stars like Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. 
I am not saying much that has not been discussed on radio talk shows and speculated about in the New York media.
You wonder what Girardi is thinking by throwing Vazquez against the Blue Jays on Wednesday and having Burnett face the Red Sox on Saturday if it is not to allow the Rays a chance to claim first place.
I know Burnett is the No. 4 starter and the team needs him straightened out. However, Burnett has always been, from the start of his career to now, a 50/50 proposition as a pitcher. He either pitches like Roy Halladay or he pitches like Vazquez. There is just no in-between with Burnett.
So maybe instead of pitching Burnett we pitch CC Sabathia with Pettitte on Saturday and have Phil Hughes start on Sunday and damn the innings limit. That would be the way you would play it if you really wanted to win the East.
But I am not sure Joe and the Yankees are going to be too broken up if they have to pack for Minneapolis.

Robertson’s Houdini Act in 11th Turned Tide

ALDS GAME 2: KEY MOMENT:


The New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins are tied at 3 in the top of the 11th inning. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, noting that lefthand hitters Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel will lead off the inning, brings in lefthander Damaso Marte to pitch to them. He has righthander David Robertson warming up to pitch to righthand-hitting Michael Cuddyer, the third scheduled hitter.

MARTE vs. MAUER

Marte pitches carefully to Mauer, knowing that one bad pitch could mean a home run for the American League batting champion. On a 1-1 pitch, Marte throws a slider that runs to the outside corner. Mauer swings and hits a high popup down the leftfield line. Because Mauer is being played to pull, leftfielder Melky Cabrera has a long run to get to the ball.
Cabrera gets to the leftfield line just as the ball descends. The ball ticks off his glove, lands about four inches in fair territory and bounces into the stands. Leftfield umpire Phil Cuzzi makes a definitive sweeping motion to his left to indicate the ball was foul.
No one on the Twins disputes the call and the game resumes. Replays show that Cuzzi made the wrong call and Mauer should be at second with a ground-rule double.
Marte decides to rely on his fastball. Mauer fouls another off and the count remains 1-2. His fourth fastball of the at-bat hangs high on the outside corner and Mauer hits it into centerfield for a single.
MARTE vs. KUBEL

Kubel is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts on the night. He is 0-for-9 in the series with six strikeouts and he has not hit a ball out of the infield. 
Marte tries inside with a fastball and misses. He tries the outside corner with a fastball and gets a called strike. Marte then loses Kubel by missing twice on sliders that sweep outside the strike zone. With the count at 3-1, he is forced to throw a fastball over the plate and Kubel hits it between Cano and Teixeira for a single to right.
Those that complain that Cuzzi’s missed call cost the Twins might be interested to know that if Mauer were at second, Cano would have been playing over in the hole and likely would have thrown Kubel out.

Girardi comes to the mound to take the ball from Marte and Robertson enters the game to pitch to Cuddyer with two on and nobody out. Marte is showered with boos form Yankee fans as he fails to do his job.

ROBERTSON vs. CUDDYER

Robertson is noted for his sneaky-fast fastball. He throws one for a strike and then one for a ball to Cuddyer. Catcher Francisco Cervelli decides to cross up Cuddyer and call for a curveball and Robertson drops it over for called strike two. Cervelli then decides to further cross up Cuddyer and he calls for a another curve. 
But the previous curve was up in the strike zone and Cuddyer could not do much with it if he had known it was coming. The second one dropped over the heart of the plate. Cuddyer times it and hits it right up the middle for a single. The ball is hit sharply and centerfielder Brett Gardner charges it quickly. Twins third-base coach Scott Ullger decides to hold Mauer at third rather than risk having him thrown out the plate.
Bases loaded and nobody out.
Robertson must now face Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Brendan Harris without a safety net and trying to keep the game tied at 3.

ROBERTSON vs. YOUNG

Young is 0-for-8 in the series. Robertson wants to get ahead in the count and tries a backdoor curveball to the outside corner. Young swings late and lines a knuckling line drive right to first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira catches the drive at shoulder height and whirls around to check if any of the runners can be doubled up. They all get back.
One out

ROBERTSON vs. GOMEZ

Gomez was put in the lineup for this game after not playing in Game 1. He is a work in progress. Talented but prone to mistakes. His base-running gaffe in the fourth inning already has cost the Twins a run. Robertson tries a fastball riding into Gomez, right in on his hands. Gomez swings and hits a weak two hopper to Teixeira, who carefully throws home to make sure they force Mauer at the plate. Cervelli realizes that with the speed of Gomez a double play is not possible and he holds the ball.
Two out

ROBERTSON vs. HARRIS

Harris only entered the game in the sixth because of a left oblique strain suffered by third baseman Matt Tolbert. He has been a pest to the Yankees all night. His triple in the sixth gave the Twins a 1-0 lead and his single in the eighth extended the Twins two-run rally off Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera that made it 3-1. He also robbed Derek Jeter of a hit in the bottom of the eighth with a diving stop of his hot grounder. So he was a big thorn in the Yankees’ side all night.
Now he had a chance to do more damage. 
Robertson started him out with a fastball that basically was right down Broadway. If Harris had been first-pitch swinging he would have had a cookie. But Harris was watching as Young and Gomez both had swung on the first pitch and made outs. He was not about to swing and Robertson took advantage it for an easy strike.
Robertson then tried to hit the low inside corner on Harris but missed low to run the count to 1-1. Cervelli and Roberston then decided to try the same pitch on which they got Gomez, a four-seam fastball that runs in on the batter. The 92 mile-per-hour fastball rode low but moved in on Harris and Harris swung. The ball immediately jumped straight up high into the air.
Harris missed the pitch and the ball settled into medium right-center and Gardner let it fall harmlessly into his glove.
Three out

David Robertson completed the most difficult escape act a relief pitcher is called upon to do. He has retired three batters with the bases loaded and nobody out. The rookie righthander walked back to the Yankee dugout with his head down like he does it every day.
Roberston was not even a lock to make the team’s postseason roster because of some right elbow soreness that shut him down for almost all of September. But two relief outings against the Tampa Bay Rays convinced Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland that he was healthy. The Yankees even shelved a plan to carry only 10 pitchers to accommodate Robertson on the roster.
One of the big reasons Robertson is so valued in the bullpen is his strikeout rate. He struck out an amazing 63 batters in 43 2/3 innings this season. That is even a higher strikeout rate than that of Yankee setup man Phil Hughes and closer Mariano Rivera!
Truth be told, Girardi probably was hoping Robertson could strike out those three batters in the 11th. But the former University of Alabama closer ended up not needing his trademark strikeout.
His effort in retiring the Twins in the 11th set up Mark Teixeira’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning. It simply was the key moment of Game 2
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“We called him Houdini after that. That’s a tough jam to be in. We were fortunate they hit that one ball to [Teixeira], but I liked his demeanor, his expressions. He looked like he was unfazed the whole time out there.”

                                                                                                              — Yankee captain Derek Jeter

“Those sort of defensive stands — you almost feel like you are going to score a run the next inning, because it deflates [the Twins] so much. To have bases loaded, nobody out [and] not be able to score, that was just a really good job by [Robertson].”

                                                                                                              — Yankee reliever Phil Hughes