Tagged: Joe Nathan

Red-Hot Kuroda Cools Off Rangers With Shutout

GAME 102


It was hard to figure out on Thursday which was hotter, the steamy weather in Texas or red-hot right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. Judging by the results the answer was clearly Kuroda.

It was as if the 38-year-old veteran doused the Rangers bats with some ice-cold water as he shut them out over seven innings for his third straight victory over his past three starts and New York got just enough offense to gain a split with Texas in their four-game series in front of 35,139 fans at Rangers Ballpark.

Kuroda (10-6) held the Rangers to six hits and a walk while he struck out three as he threw 100 pitches (61 for strikes) on a sun-splashed afternoon in plus 90-degree weather.

David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and Mariano Rivera, on a day he was honored by the Rangers in his last visit to Arlington, TX, tossed a scoreless ninth to earn his 33rd save in 35 opportunities this season.

Kuroda was locked in a pitchers’ duel with Rangers left-hander Derek Holland until the top of the sixth inning, when the Yankees were able to push across a run.

Light-hitting backup catcher Austin Romine opened the sixth with a double, part of his first major-league game in which he delivered three hits. Ichiro Suzuki advanced Romine to third by laying down a sacrifice bunt and Brent Lillibridge scored Romine by slapping the first pitch into left for an RBI double.

The Yankees added a run in the eighth when Robinson Cano laced a one-out double that chased Holland.

Vernon Wells greeted right-hander Tanner Scheppers with a single that advanced Cano to third and Eduardo Nunez scored Cano when he beat out a potential double-play ball.

Holland (8-6) was charged with two runs on eight hits and one walk while he fanned two batters in 7 1/3 innings.

Holland threw a complete-game shutout against the Yankees on June 27 at Yankee Stadium for his only career victory against them. After taking the loss on Thursday, Holland is now 1-6 against the Yankees.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 54-48. They are in fourth place in the American League East and they trail the first-place Boston Red Sox by 6 1/2 games. The Rangers fell to 56-46.


  • Kuroda is on a real hot streak on the mound. In his past four starts, Kuroda is 3-0, giving up only two earned runs on 20 hits and five walks while striking out 16 in 26 innings. That is an ERA of 0.69 and a WHIP of 0.96. Pitching for a team that does not support him with a lot of runs does not seem to bother him one bit. Kuroda is second in the American League to Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners in ERA with a 2.51 mark.
  • Lillibridge came through with what turned out to be his second big hit of the series against the Rangers in the sixth. He drove in the game-tying run in the ninth inning off Rangers closer Joe Nathan in Tuesday’s 5-4 victory. The 29-year-old utility man had only two hits in 11 at-bats in the three games he started in the series but he sure made them count.
  • Romine’s three-hit game is the culmination of some hard work in the batting cage to sharpen up his swing. On July 8, the rookie was hitting an anemic .132. But in his past four starts, he is 7-for-14 (.500) with four doubles, three runs scored and two RBIs. That has raised Romine’s season average to .193.


Kuroda pitched a gem, the bullpen held the lead and the offense was opportunistic with Brett Gardner, Chris Stewart and Travis Hafner on the bench and three rookies and a journeyman third baseman in the lineup. How this team wins as much as it does is beyond words. No complaints here.


The Yankees reportedly are about “99 percent” complete on a deal that would return Chicago Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano back to the team with which he started his career. The deal likely will be announced on Friday. Soriano was in the Cubs’ starting lineup on Thursday but he was pulled from the game when Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein informed manager Dale Sveum of the impending deal. Soriano, 37, was hitting .254 with 17 home runs and 51 RBIs in 93 games with the Cubs. But Soriano has been on a home-run tear lately, hitting 10 home runs in his past 21 games with a .286 average, six doubles and 21 RBIs. Soriano began his major-league career with the Yankees in 1999 after his contract was purchased from a Japanese League team. He played with the Yankees through 2003 when he was traded to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez.  . . .  Rodriguez underwent a physical examination by Dr. Dan Murphy in Tampa, FL, on Thursday that revealed the veteran third baseman had shown improvement with his strained left quad but that he will not be ready to be activated from the disabled list before Aug. 1. The Yankees said Rodriguez will remain at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa until then. Rodriguez told reporters earlier in the day that he “was ready to play” on Friday but the Yankees disagreed with him, citing medical reports that indicate he was not quite ready to play.  . . .  Meanwhile, shortstop Derek Jeter ran the bases without any problems on Thursday at Rangers Ballpark and he hopes to be activated for Saturday’s game at Yankee Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeter, 39, came off the disabled list on July 11 after recovering from surgery on his left ankle, but he sustained a strained right quad and had to be returned to the DL. Saturday is the earliest Jeter could be activated.


The Yankees open an important three-game weekend home series against division rival Tampa Bay.

The Yankees will open the series with left-hander CC Sabathia (9-8, 4.37 ERA). Sabathia got hammered for seven runs on nine hits in five innings on his 33rd birthday on Sunday in a loss to the Red Sox. He is 1-2 with a 7.29 ERA against the Rays this season and 11-11 with a 3.57 ERA in his career.

The Rays will start right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (9-3, 4.62 ERA). Hellickson held the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs on five hits for his ninth victory of the season. Hellickson is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven lifetime appearances against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast by MY9.


Hot Dog! Nathan Not Kosher As Yanks Rally In 9th

GAME 100


All season the Yankees have gotten very little production from their shortstops and third basemen. On Tuesday, they got some very timely production from both in the ninth inning to steal a victory from the Rangers.

Shortstop Eduardo Nunez laced a one-out RBI triple that tied the game and third baseman Brent Lillibridge followed with an RBI single off Ranger closer Joe Nathan as New York rallied for two runs in the ninth to down Texas in front of 42,739 at Ranger Ballpark.

Nathan entered the ninth with a 4-3 lead and a resume boasting 31 saves in 32 opportunities this season. But things unraveled quickly for the American League All-Star right-hander when he issued a one-out walk to Vernon Wells.

Nathan then uncorked a wild pitch as he stumbled off the pitching rubber to allow Wells to take second.

Nunez later laced a 3-2 pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark in center-field for a triple that scored Wells with the tying run. Lillibridge, who had committed a costly one-out error in the sixth inning that helped the Rangers score four runs, then slapped a 1-0 pitch into left-field that scored Nunez with what proved to be the winning run.

Joba Chamberlain (2-0) pitched a perfect eighth inning to earn the victory in relief. Nathan (1-1) was tagged with his first loss of the season.

Mariano Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two batters, to earn his 32nd save in 34 chances this season.

The Yankees actually held a 3-0 lead and Phil Hughes had limited the Rangers to only two hits through the first 5 1/3 innings until Lillibridge’s error on a ball off the bat of Nelson Cruz opened the floodgates.

Adrian Beltre followed with an RBI double to left-center and, one out later, Elvis Andrus chased Hughes from the game with a lined opposite-field single to right.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi summoned left-hander Boone Logan form the bullpen and Mitch Moreland greeted him with a two-run home run to center that gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead.

Hughes gave up three runs (none of them earned) on four hits and three walks while he struck out one in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees built their 3-0 lead off right-hander Alexi Ogando, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day to make the start.

A pair of rookies got the Yankees on the board in the third. Melky Mesa, making his first start of the season, doubled off the wall in center in his first at-bat of the season. Austin Romine, who entered the game hitting an anemic .158, then slapped an opposite-field double down the right-field line to score Mesa.

Brett Gardner followed with a single to left that advanced Romine to third and Ichiro Suzuki scored Romine with a infield single that Andrus was able to glove deep in the hole at short but he had no play. It was Suzuki’s 25th infield hit of the season, which leads the American League.

The single was also Suzuki’s 2,700th major-league hit.

The Yankees added a run off Ogando in the fourth when Wells led off with a double to the corner in left and Nunez advanced him to third on a deep fly to center. Lillibridge scored Wells on a ground ball to second in which Ian Kinsler’s throw to home plate bounced, allowing Wells to slide in safely without a tag.

Ogando was touched for three runs on six hits and no walks and he fanned two batters in five innings.

By snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat the Yankees improved to 53-47. More importantly, they remain in fourth place in the American League East, seven games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. The Rangers fell to 55-45.


  • Nunez was 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored and hit the ball hard both times he was retired. Nunez finally is getting untracked at the plate after his average had dipped to .207 on July 19. Since then Nunez is 8-for-17 (.471) and that has raised his season average to .242.
  • Lillibridge was playing third base in place of an injured Luis Cruz and he ended up 1-for-4 with two RBIs, including the game-winner, despite his costly error. Third base has been a sore spot for the team all season but Lillibridge delivered some important runs for the Yankees on a night they desperately needed them.
  • Hughes deserved a much better fate in this game. If not for Lillibridge’s error and Logan picking a bad night to stink, Hughes should have won the game. He is 4-9 but he is one of the worst run-supported starters in the majors this season.


  • This was one night that two of the Yankees’ better hitters, Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay, did not deliver anything. The pair, batting third and fourth, were a combined 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and they stranded three runners.
  • Girardi looks to have pulled the trigger on Hughes a bit too early and it cost him. Hughes left the game having thrown only 80 pitches. Girardi told reporters after the game that Hughes was getting his pitches up in that inning. But Logan served up the two-run homer to Moreland. I blame Girardi more than I blame Logan because Hughes needed just one out to get out of the inning. Let him pitch, Joe!


Cruz was sporting a heavy leg brace on his left knee in what appears to be a sprained medial collateral ligament that will likely land him on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. Cruz injured the knee making a diving grab of  a Moreland popup to shallow left in the third inning of Monday’s game. Cruz’s spike caught in the turf and he landed awkwardly on the knee. He remained in the game but was unavailable to play on Tuesday. If Cruz ends up on the disabled list he will become the 17th player on the team to be disabled covering 21 separate stints.  . . .  Derek Jeter took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran sprints on Wednesday as part of his recovery from a Grade 1 strain of his right quad that he sustained on his first game of the season on July 11. Jeter said he felt no pain and he hopes to be able to be activated on Saturday, the first day he is eligible to come of the DL.


The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Rangers on Wednesday.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte (7-7, 4.47 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Pettitte yielded four runs on six hits and a walk with for strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings of a loss to the Red Sox last Friday. In the past 10 seasons, Pettitte is 6-7 with a 4.53 ERA against Texas.

The Rangers will counter with right-hander Matt Garza, who will be making his debut with the Rangers after being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on Monday. In his career, Garza is 1-4 with a 4.48 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.


Darvish Fans 10 As Yankees Lay Huge Goose Egg



Yu Darvish pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings and struck out 10 batters as he and his Texas teammates outdueled Hiroki Kiroda and New York on Tuesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

Ian Kinsler hit a solo home run to leadoff the bottom of the first inning and Josh Hamilton added an RBI single after Elvis Andrus drew a two-out walk and stole second in the third inning to give Darvish the only runs he needed.

Darvish (3-0) scattered seven hits and walked two before giving way to Joe Nathan, who induced a double-play grounder on his first delivery to pick up his fifth save.

Kuroda (1-3) gave up only five hits and two walks and fanned five in 6 2/3 innings to take a tough-luck loss.

With the loss the Yankees fell to 10-7. The Rangers improved to 14-4.


  • In the “He Can Do It All By Himself” Department, Derek Jeter had a bunt single that loaded the bases in the third and a two-out double in the fifth. That raised Jeter’s season average to .416. On Monday, he became the first Yankee to ever have as many as 30 hits in the team’s first 16 games. He is not only having the best start of his career, he is having the best start of any Yankee, period.
  • Robinson Cano also contributed a leadoff double in the fourth and a one-out single in the sixth. But it did little good because nobody was capable of stepping up and getting a hit to advance or score him. In his last 10 games, Cano is 12-for-40 (.300) with a home run and three RBIs. It has raised his batting average from . 229 to .268.
  • Kuroda deserved a better fate. After pitching horribly against the Twins last week, Kuroda was able to keep the Rangers off balance with his breaking stuff and he only spotted his fastball on the corners or up in the strike zone. He just ended up being outpitched by a his fellow countryman from Ozaka.


  • If you want to beat the Yankees, just throw incredibly slow stuff that breaks out of the strike zone. Nine of Darvish’s 10 strikeouts were swinging strikes and eight of the nine came on pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone.  It kind of reminded me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the oversized brutes tie themselves in knots while the baseball floats harmlessly into the catcher’s glove.
  • Curtis Granderson gets the “If You Are Just Going To Watch, Buy A Ticket” Award for watching Darvish paint strike three on him on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and NO OUTS in the third inning. It was just inexcusable for him not to protect the plate in that situation.
  • Alex Rodriguez was not much better. He followed Granderson with a weak grounder right on the third base bag that Adrian Beltre turned into an inning-ending double play by stepping on third and firing to get Rodriguez at first. Rodriguez was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three infield grounders. The Yankees were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position so they deserved to lose.


The exact condition of Michael Pineda’s right shoulder is in doubt still after an MRI dye contrast test was conducted by the Yankees team physician, Dr. Christopher Ahmad, on Tuesday. Apparently, Pineda’s agent has requested a second opinion from the New York Mets team physician. Reading between the lines, this can’t be good news for the Yankees or Pineda. The 23-year-old right-hander has been on the 15-day disabled list since March 31 with what was termed rotator cuff tendinitis. Pineda cut short a bullpen session in Tampa, FL., on Saturday after 15 pitches, citing discomfort in his shoulder.  It is unclear how long Pineda will be sidelined.  . . .  Andy Pettitte will make his third minor-league start on Wednesday for Double-A Trenton in a home game against Erie at 7:05 p.m. EDT. Pettitte, 39, is scheduled to throw 80 to 85 pitches in his effort to return to the Yankees and the major leagues after a one-year absence.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi announced on Tuesday that Freddy Garcia will pitch on Saturday at home against the Detroit Tigers. That means CC Sabathia will get an extra day’s rest and pitch on Sunday.


The Yankees will try to win the rubber game of their three-game road series against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (1-2, 6.75 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Last Thursday, Hughes was tagged for six runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Twins in his last start. However, Hughes is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA against Texas in his career.

The Rangers will counter with spot starter Scott Feldman (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who is coming out of the bullpen to make a start. He is 29-28 with a 4.68 ERA in 80 career starts. But he is just 3-2 with a 4.76 ERA against the Yankees in four starts and two relief outings.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.


Yankee Bullpen Implodes Spoiling Sabathia’s Shutout

TWINS 5, YANKEES 4 (10 Innings)
Joe Mauer singled in Denard Span with the tie-breaking run in the 10th inning as Minnesota rallied to defeat New York on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
Matt Capps (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his second save. Left-hander Boone Logan (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees are 3-2 on the young season. The Twins are 2-3.
  • CC Sabathia deserved a better fate than what the bullpen handed him. He pitched seven scoreless innings. he gave up only two hits and a walk and fanned six. Sabathia retired the last 17 batters he faced and left the game with a 4-0 lead.
  • If there was any doubt that Mark Teixeira’s off-season plan to lift less weights and hit more baseballs is working there is none now. Teixeira connected for a three-run home run in the first inning off starter Brian Duensing to give the Yankees an early lead. It was Teixeira’s fourth home run and he now has 10 RBIs in five games.
  • Left-fielder Andruw Jones became the 13th player in Yankee history to hit a home run in his first at-bat with the team. He connected for a solo home run off Duensing in the second inning. Jones started in left-field in place of Brett Gardner because manager Joe Girardi wanted to get Jones some at-bats against a left-hander.
  • In retrospect, Girardi’s decision to bring in Rafael Soriano for a second appearance in two games in the eighth inning was a tragic mistake. Soriano lacked command, walking two batters and giving up a single before he issued a two-out bases-loaded walk to Mauer for the Twins first run. Soriano was pulled after throwing 32 pitches and he will be not be able to pitch on Wednesday.
  • Soriano’s poor performance set up David Roberston’s blown save. Robertson made an excellent pitch on Delmon Young but Young was able to dump a looping double in shallow right that scored all three runners and tie the score in the eighth.
  • Logan had no excuse for his poor outing. He faced three batters in the 10th and they all reached. He walked Span to open the inning. Tsuyoshi Nishioka followed with a single that moved Span to third. Mauer then singled past a Robinson Cano into right to score Span with what would eventually be the winning run.
  • The Yankees decided that four runs they had scored after two innings were enough. They did the same thing on Monday and won. But on Tuesday, it was not enough. The Yankees only managed two hits after the second inning. 
Teixeira, Cano and Derek Jeter received their Gold Glove awards in a pregame ceremony. They are the first three infielders on the same team to win Gold Glove awards since the 2000 Indians of second baseman Roberto Alomar, shortstop Omar Vizquel and third baseman Travis Fryman. 
The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Twins on Wednesday with the series tied at 1-1. 
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia will make his debut with the Yankees. He was 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA with the White Sox last season. He is 10-7 with a 4.07 ERA against the Twins in the last 10 seasons.
The Twins will start former New York Yankee disabled list legend Carl Pavano (0-1, 15.75 ERA), who is coming off a shelling on Opening Day courtesy of the Blue Jays. He is 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA against the Yankees in his career. 
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

A-Rod, Posada Blasts Off Pavano Polish Off Yankee  Sweep

Yankees win best-of-five series 3-0

Carl Pavano had the hopes of all The Metrodome and a 1-0 lead on the New York Yankees and a three-hitter going. But it all slipped away in a sequence of just six pitches.
Former teammates Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada stroked solo home runs in the seventh inning to erase the 1-0 deficit and the Yankees went on to beat Pavano and the Twins on Sunday night to close out the last game played in the Metrodome and sweep the best-of-five American League Division Series.
The Yankees will now advance to the American League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels. The best-of-seven series will begin on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Veteran lefthander Andy Pettitte dueled Pavano pitch-for-pitch and added to his impressive postseason resume with his 15th postseason victory, which ties him with John Smoltz for the most in postseason history.
Pettitte (1-0) pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run on just three hits and one costly walk. He fanned seven batters and left a 2-1 lead for the hard-throwing Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera to protect.
That bullpen threesome pitched 2 2/3 innings, gave up three hits and no walks and struck out three as Rivera recorded the final four outs to pick up his first save of this postseason.
Pavano, who never delivered on a four-year, $40 million contract he signed with the Yankees in 2005, entered the seventh inning having walked none and struck out nine, matching Pettitte knowing the Twins’ ability to extend the series to a Game 4 rested in his hands.
However, much like he did in his unremarkable 26 starts over four injury-riddled seasons with the Yankees, Pavano broke down in the clutch. With one out, Rodriguez fought Pavano to a 3-2 count before launching a 374-foot Howitzer shot into right-centerfield that landed in the top row of the football stadium seats.
For Rodriguez, who was much-maligned for his failure to hit in the clutch in the postseason, it was his fifth hit of the series, his second home run and his sixth RBI. With that the Yankees newest “Mr. October” was sporting a .455 batting average in the series as he tied the game at one. It was the ninth postseason home run of his career.
“He came up with a couple of huge home runs for us,” Derek Jeter said of Rodriguez. “He’s swinging the bat well. He’s been swinging the bat extremely well the whole year. It seems like he continues to get better and better, and hopefully, he’ll continue. He’s a big reason why we’re here.”
Pavano then struck out Hideki Matsui on three pitches and Posada stepped to the plate with two out. On a 1-0 pitch, Posada slapped a high line drive to the opposite field in left. Delmon Young got to the wall but the ball just barely scrapped over it and landed in the first row.
The Yankees not only took a huge 2-1 lead, they also knew they finally had a chance to pin a loss on Pavano for the first time since he left the team as a free agent last winter and signed with the Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees could have no sweeter incentive for keeping the lead.
The Yankees dodged a major bullet and the Twins likely gift-wrapped the game to the Yankees with another base-running gaffe in the eighth inning. Hughes gave up a leadoff double to No. 9  batter Nick Punto, who was 4-for-9 in the series with three walks. Leadoff hitter Denard Span then bounced a 1-0 fastball into the Metrodome turf right up the middle and the ball looked to be ticketed for centerfield.
However, Jeter ranged over from shortstop and cut the ball off but had no play on the speedy Span heading to first. So Jeter alertly threw the ball home as Punto was rounding third base. Third-base coach Scott Ullger had gone halfway down the third-base line and signaled Punto to hold up.
However, when Punto saw the sign he was within 10 feet of Ullger. He tried to stop, but his feet slipped and he fell down. By the time he got to his feet and headed back to third, Posada had rifled the ball to Rodriguez and Punto was called out by third-base umpire Phil Cuzzi. This time the TBS television replays showed Cuzzi made the right call.
Punto was a dead Twin.
“It looked like he thought the ball was going to go through,” Posada told MLB.com. “I just hoped he kept going, because we had a pretty good shot to get him.”
Hughes got Orlando Cabrera to fly out and Rivera came in to retire Joe Mauer on a broken bat grounder to Mark Teixeira.
The Twins also committed a bad base-running mistake in the fourth inning of Game 2 when Carlos Gomez rounded second base, slipped and was tagged out by Jeter just before Delmon Young scored. The Yankees went on to win that game 4-3 in 11 innings.
The Yankees added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth when three different relievers each walked one batter to load the bases with one out. Twins closer Joe Nathan, who blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 2 by giving up a two-run home run to Rodriguez, was called upon to stop the bleeding.
Instead he opened the wound further.
Posada hit a sharp single into right to score Teixeira. Robinson Cano followed with a bloop single to right to fittingly plate Rodriguez with what will be the final run scored in the Metrodome. The Twins will play in a new open-air stadium next season.
Rivera closed out the ninth and the Yankees celebrated their first playoff series victory since the 2004 when the Yankees ironically beat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 in the American League Division Series.
The Twins scored their only run off Pettitte with two out in the sixth when Span singled and the stole second base. Cabrera then worked a walk and Mauer singled to left to score Span.
Pettitte, who was making his 36th career postseason game, also became the major-league leader in postseason innings pitched with 224 2/3 innings, breaking a tie with Tom Glavine at 218 1/3 innings.
The raucous Yankees celebrated the first postseason series victory in five seasons by spraying themselves and the Metrodome visitors clubhouse walls with champagne. But Pettitte put the evening in true perspective.
“You know, we want to win a World Series,” Pettitte told MLB.com. “We took a step here to move on. We are going to have a nasty series. It’s going to be a war with us and the Angels, but we are looking forward to it. We’re going to celebrate this one and enjoy it. I’m just really happy for our club.”

“People can say whatever they want about home runs and big hits,” Rodriguez said. “If you don’t pitch and you don’t defend, you are not going to win. The story of this has been CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte, and all three of them were fantastic.”

The Yankees’ three starters in the series — Sabathia, Burnett and Pettite — completed the series against the Twins with an ERA of 1.42. They gave up 14 hits and six walks and fanned 20 batters in 19 innings. 

“I think we played the same way we have been playing the whole regular season,” Posada said to MLB.com. “I think pitching is just so important when it comes to a series like this. Once you see it, you understand why pitching is so important now.”

“This is what you play for — to get that opportunity — and now we’re playing for the opportunity to go to the World Series,” Jeter said. “It’s only going to get more difficult as we go on.”