Tagged: Phil Cuzzi

Ellsbury’s Speed Allows Yankees To Freeze Tigers

GAME 16

YANKEES 2, TIGERS 1

With Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez locked up in a classic pitchers’ duel and scoring at a premium the result on Thursday was decided by the quick feet of Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury used his speed to force Sanchez into a costly balk and he later hustled a base hit into a double that led to scoring the game-winning run as New York took three of four games against Detroit on another bone-chilling 38-degree afternoon at Comerica Park.

The Tigers took advantage of some early command issues that plagued Tanaka to score a run in the first inning.

Anthony Gose led off with an opposite-field double and advanced to third on Ian Kinsler’s ground out. After Miguel Cabrera drew a walk, Gose was able to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Victor Martinez.

That run stood up most of the day as Tanaka and Sanchez matched each other for the rest of the afternoon.

After Cabrera’s walk, Tanaka retired 18 of the next 19 batters he faced, striking out six. The only hit he gave up was a two-out double to J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning.

Meanwhile, Sanchez entered the game with a 7.71 ERA. But he was able to keep the Yankees scoreless through the first five innings, yielding only a two-out double to Chris Young while striking out five.

Ellsbury opened the sixth by drawing a walk and stealing second base. Brett Gardner advanced him to third on a infield groundout. Then with two out and Brian McCann up, Ellsbury bluffed his way down the third-base line and forced Sanchez to lose contact with the rubber on his first delivery.

Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi made no call as McCann and the Yankees bench protested loudly. Third-base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis then called the balk and Ellsbury scored the tying run for the Yankees without the benefit of a hit.

Unfortunately, the late call did not please Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and he was ejected from the game by Davis.

Tanaka continued his mastery of the Tigers until J.D. Martinez laced another double with one out in the seventh inning and Yoenis Cespedes the drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. That ended Tanaka’s day.

Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire pinch-hitter James McCann on a sensational diving stop by Chase Headley at third, who barely beat Cespedes with his throw to second on a fielder’s choice while preventing Martinez from scoring the tie-breaking run.

Right-hander Dellin Betances then came on to get Nick Castellanos on a foul popup to end the threat.

Ellsbury opened the eighth inning against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (0-1) with a sinking liner in left-center and he slid into second just ahead the throw from Gose. Gardner advanced him to third on a sacrifice bunt and, after Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play, McCann hit a hard grounder that trickled off Cabrera’s glove before Kinsler retrieved it throw out McCann at first base.

However, Cabrera’s inability to field it cleanly allowed Ellsbury to score what turned out to be the decisive run.

Betances (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth to get credit for the victory and Andrew Miller came in to hurl a perfect ninth, striking out Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, to earn his sixth save in as many chances.

Tanaka was charged with one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings while Sanchez surrendered one run on one hit and four walks with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

After losing their first two series at home and one on the road, the Yankees have now won two straight road series. They also cooled off the Tigers and have now won six of their past seven games to improve their record to 9-7. The Tigers fell to 11-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Between Sanchez’s pitching, the cold weather and the fact manager Joe Girardi held Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez out of the starting lineup to rest them, it was obvious the Yankees would have to be resourceful to score runs. Ellsbury provided it. He was 1-for-2 with his hustle double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored the Yankees two runs. This was Ellsbury at his very best as a leadoff hitter.
  • The Tigers may have a scary offense and some good starting pitching but their bullpen is definitely their Achilles’ heel. It let them down again and lost the game for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen was flawless throughout the series. Betances was especially impressive on Thursday. He has shaken off a bad spring training and has his velocity back, having registered as high as 97 miles-per-hour on his fastball on Thursday. In his past five outings since April 15, Betances has yielded just two hits and a walk and struck out nine batters in six innings.
  • Headley was 0-for-3 with a walk and struck out three times but his value in this game was huge. Not only did Headley save a run with his diving stop of McCann’s ground ball in the seventh, he also robbed Victor Martinez of a base hit with one out in the ninth. The Yankees may have gotten off to shaky start in the field but they have committed only one error in their past eight games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • This is not so much a negative as it is a complaint. Girardi opted to rest both Teixeira and Rodriguez, who have combined to hit nine home runs and drive in 24 runs. I understand the reason is they are older players but the Tigers used Kinsler, Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Cespedes after they played the night before. The Yankees had Beltran batting third and McCann in the cleanup spot. On top of that, Teixeira entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and played first base for the final two innings. My point is that if Teixeira was going to be used anyway why not start him? Girardi got away with it because Ellsbury bailed him out. But the Yankees can’t be shocked they had only three hits in the game when they basically entered the game with one hand tied behind their back by their own manager. Rest Rodriguez or rest Teixeira but not both them, Joe. Come on!

BOMBER BANTER

The Tigers entered the four-game series 10-2 and they had scored 68 runs in those 12 games. The Yankees’ pitching staff allowed them only nine runs in the four games. Here is the most amazing part of it, though. The bullpen only allowed one run in the entire series. “I give our pitchers a lot of credit for fighting through the weather and keeping a really good offense down,” Teixeira told reporters. “We didn’t score a ton of runs except for last night, but we scored enough runs to win, and that’s because pitching and defense was really good this series.”

ON DECK

The Yankees ended their first road trip 7-3 and now the return home to open Round 1 of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium against the New York Mets on Friday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday giving up three runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

The Mets will counter with 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93 ERA), who has not surrendered a run in his past 18 1/3 innings. He shut out the Miami Marlins on Sunday on six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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Unorthodox Yankees Push Rox Over Cliff In Ninth

GAME 32

YANKEES 3, ROCKIES 2

After watching Joe Girardi manage the Yankees on Wednesday night you are kind of left to wonder what he will do next. Will he alternate right-handed and left-handed pitchers by playing them in left-field? Will he have one of his pitchers pinch-run and attempt to steal a base? Or will he bat CC Sabathia in the cleanup spot on Thursday?

Girardi batted starting pitcher David Phelps in the eighth spot in the order and used outfielder Vernon Wells at third base in the ninth inning but somehow it all worked out for New York to edge Colorado in front of a paid  crowd of 40,148 at Coors Field.

Pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch narrowly beat out a infield grounder with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to allow Wells to score the tie-breaking run and as the Yankees ended a two-game losing streak.

Wells led off the ninth with a ground ball deep in the hole at short. After Wells stole second, Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt (1-1) then walked Lyle Overbay.

Ichiro Suzuki laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Wells and Overbay into scoring position and the Rockies elected to walk Jayson Nix intentionally to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Travis Hafner struck out. But Boesch followed with a ground ball to the left of third baseman Nolan Arenado. The rookie third baseman dove, got up and fired the ball to first but first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled Boesch safe on a close play that allowed the eventual game-winning run to score.

David Roberston (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to get credit for the victory.

Because Eduardo Nunez has been sidelined with tightness in his left ribcage and Girardi had elected to use Hafner to pinch-hit for third baseman Chris Nelson, Boesch stayed in the game in right-field, Suzuki shifted to left-field and the left-fielder Wells  –  who had never played a single inning at any level of baseball at third   –  played there in the ninth.

Wells even made a nice stop on a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez and threw him out at first to record the second out of the inning behind closer Mariano Rivera.

Rivera did give up a two-out single and a stolen base to Michael Cuddyer but he induced a routine flyout to center from Wilin Rosario to save his 12th game in as many chances.

The Yankees actually took an early lead in the game off right-hander Juan Nicasio when Wells hit a two-run homer to left with one out in the first inning.

The Rockies knotted it in the second when Rosario laced a one-out double to right-center and Todd Helton followed with a two-run blast of his own off Phelps that landed in the second deck in right-field.

Nicasio gave up two runs on two hits and one walk and struck out five in five innings.

Phelps, making only his second start of the season, pitched a brilliant six innings, surrendering two runs on three hits and one walk while striking out four batters.

Girardi elected to bat Phelps eighth and catcher Austin Romine ninth because he did not want to pinch-hit later in the game for Phelps with a left-handed hitter with left-handed hitters Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano to follow. Whatever the reasoning the result was a victory for Girardi and his Yankees.

The Yankees improved their season record to 19-13. The Rockies fell to 19-14.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Wells entered the game in a 3-for-23 (.130) slide over his past six games but stepped up with a 3-for-4 night with a homer, two singles, a stolen base, two runs scored and two RBIs. Wells also played a flawless third base in the ninth to make Girardi look good. Wells, 34, is batting .287 this season with seven home runs and 15 RBIs.
  • Phelps was simply sensational in his second start. Other than the double by Rosario and Helton’s homer, Phelps held the Rockies to a two-out single by Josh Rutledge in the sixth inning and a one-out walk to Dexter Fowler in the third. He pitched to the minimum three batters in four of his six innings and he threw only 87 pitches.
  • The Yankees’ bullpen also was superb. Preston Claiborne posted another impressive 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout in the seventh and Robertson and Rivera each pitched a scoreless inning for the victory and the save, respectively. After not pitching well the first week of the season, the bullpen has been doing great work in the past month.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Girardi will never admit it but the injuries are really hurting the offense. After scratching out four hits and not scoring a run on Tuesday, the Yankees managed only six hits and scored three runs on Wednesday. They were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, which includes Wells’ homer and Boesch’s RBI single.
  • Cano is not helping the Yankees at all in this road series. In the first two games he is 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and he has only managed to get one ball out of the infield. Cano’s season average has dropped to a rather pedestrian .305 after he began May hitting .327.
  • The decision to bat Phelps eighth and Romine ninth really did not yield any results from them. Phelps struck out swinging twice and Romine also fanned swinging his first two at-bats and then he later grounded out. Though the Yankees won I am not sure Girardi will elect to have his pitcher bat eighth again.

BOMBER BANTER

Nunez felt tightness in his ribcage and was held out of Wednesday’s game and it is unlikely he will play on Thursday. Nunez sustained the injury on Sunday and has now missed a total of six games due to a series of injuries this season.  . . .  Right-hander Ivan Nova gave up two runs in four-plus innings in an extended spring training game in Tampa, FL, on Wednesday and said he felt much better than expected. Nova, 26, who is on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps, yielded five hits and three walks while he struck five Toronto Blue Jay minor leaguers. Nova is hoping to be activated on May 13 but the Yankees have not set a date for his return.

ON DECK

The Yankees will attempt to win the three-game series with Colorado on Thursday.

Sabathia (4-3, 3.31 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia only gave up two runs on six hits in six innings against the Oakland Athletics on Friday but he took the loss because the Yankees did not score him any runs. In his career against the Rockies, Sabathia is 2-1 with a 5.97 ERA.

The Rockies will counter with left-hander Jeff Francis (1-2, 7.27 ERA). Francis surrendered four runs in five innings in a no-decision against the Rays on Friday. He is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 3.10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Jeter’s Smart Play Won Series For Yankees

ALDS GAME 3: KEY MOMENT:


For years the detractors of Derek Jeter have scoffed at his play in the field. At 35, they said he is too old and his range is too poor to be considered a great shortstop. The Jeter Is Overrated Fan Club has grown louder over the years buttressed by Bill James and his sabermetric study of Range Factor.

Jeter loyalists say that is hogwash. They cite Jeter’s litany of fielding gems, including the famous flip to Posada to nab Jeremy Giambi at the plate and his headlong sprinting catch that took him into the seats against the Red Sox. Of course, the fact he has won three Gold Gloves adds to the evidence that James and fellow detractors might be wrong.

But Sunday night, Jeter turned in another one of those playoff gems. Shall we call it: Flip 2?

THE SCENE:

The New York Yankees, who have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series, are protecting a 2-1 lead on the Minnesota Twins in the bottom of the eighth inning. Phil Hughes, who was nearly indestructible in the regular season but hittable in this playoff series, has just given up a leadoff double to the Twins’ No. 9 hitter, Nick Punto.
Hughes knows if Punto scores the game will be tied and he also knows if leadoff man Denard Span gets Punto to third with less than two outs, preventing the Twins from tying the game will be tough with Orlando Cabrera and AL batting champion Joe Mauer due to bat after Span.
Because Span is a left-handed hitter, Jeter is deep on The Metrodome carpet and shading Span slightly up the middle. On a 1-0 pitch, Span hits a Hughes fastball down hard on the synthetic surface and the ball sails directly over Hughes, takes another hop and looks to be headed into centerfield.
But that is when this scenario turns into the key moment of the game:
JETER FLAGS IT DOWN

Jeter moves quickly to his left to try to keep the ball in the infield because he knows if it gets by him that Punto will score the tying run easily. Jeter moves about 15 feet behind the second base bag and catches the ball off the second hop. 
He knows he has no play on the speedy Span chugging down the line at first base but he does spot Punto rounding the third-base bag aggressively and he wants to make sure that if Punto does try to score that he gets the ball to catcher Jorge Posada.
PUNTO MISSES THE SIGN

Punto was running as fast as he could to third, knowing that the ball was hit up the middle so there can be no play on him. He also was hearing a huge crescendo of fan noise and he believed that the ball bounced into centerfield. He put his head down and intended to round third and score on the play.
“It was one of those things where crowd noise got me a little bit,” Punto said. “The fans were just excited that they saw there wasn’t going to be a play at first base. There were [54,735] people screaming, and I felt like that ball might have gone through. It’s a huge play in that game, and I can’t let that happen. It’s a little tough to swallow right now.”

Meanwhile, third-base coach Scott Ullger had moved halfway down the third-base line to give Punto the sign. He clearly saw Jeter had the ball and knew if Punto had tried to score he would be out easily at the plate. Ullger and the Twins would gladly settle for having runners at first and third with nobody out.

He held up the stop sign to Punto. But Punto rounded third base with his head down and he did not pick up Ullger’s stop sign until he was just about 10 feet away from him.

“He just never looked up, and that’s what I’m there for. I’m there to help,” Ullger told The St. Paul Pioneer Press. “He did look up eventually, but obviously, it was too late. Jeter made the play. He’s so instinctual; he seemed to be making the play and looking to see what Nicky was doing at the same time.”

JETER EXECUTES “FLIP 2”

Jeter does not set his feet to throw hard to Posada. He merely gives the ball a casual flip similar to his patented jump and flip throws to first. But because he well beyond the turf line in back of the second base bag, the throw heads to Posada with a high trajectory but lands short of the veteran catcher with one perfect hop off the turf.

Posada has time to look to see where Punto is along the third-base line and prepare to catch the throw from Jeter.

“I saw him turn the base out of the corner of my eye,” Posada said. “It was a bang-bang play. Jeter made a perfect throw to me at the plate. It just happened real quick.”

POSADA NAILS PUNTO AT THIRD

When Punto realized Ullger was stopping him, he was halfway between third and home. No man’s land. He knew his only hope was to put on the brakes and head back to third. So he sat down in an attempt to stop his momentum with a slide. It worked and Punto now was scrambling to his feet to break back to third.

But Posada saw how far Punto had run and knew if he could get off a good throw to third baseman Alex Rodriguez, he had a chance to pick off Punto before he got back.

Rodriguez ran to the bag and saw Posada winding up for a throw to him. Punto aimed his head-first slide back to the left side of the bag. Although this was the quickest way back, it allowed Rodriguez to lay his left leg flat on the dirt and place his right foot about six inches in front of the bag, giving Posada a perfect throwing lane.

Posada, who spent most of last season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury that required off-season surgery, threw a seed that landed in Rodriguez’ glove about a foot off the ground and toward the left side of the bag.

Rodriguez took the throw and just waited for Punto, in a sense, tag himself out. He leaned far to his right and put his bare hand over the glove to prevent Punto from jarring it loose on the slide. Punto’s chest hit Rodriguez’ glove before Punto could get his hand back to the base.

Third-base umpire Phil Cuzzi, who drew the ire of Twins’ fans the night before when he called a ground-rule double off the bat of Mauer a foul ball, called Punto out. This time Cuzzi had the correct call and Punto looked back to Ullger is disbelief.

He gathered himself, dusted himself off and trotted back to the dugout knowing he had just committed a major base-running gaffe at the worst possible moment.

Hughes and Mariano Rivera retired Cabrera and Mauer, the Twins gave up two more runs to the Yankees in the ninth and the Yankees completed a 3-0 sweep of the Twins with a 4-1 victory in the last game played in The Metrodome.

Jeter’s heads-up play was simply the key moment of the game and one big reason why the Yankees are advancing to the American League Championship Series and the Twins were eliminated.

                                                                    **********

“It was huge at the time,” Jeter said. “That team plays very tough. This game and the previous one could have gone either way. If you’re going to win a series, you’ve got to get some breaks. We made some breaks.”

                                                                    **********


“Nick Punto, no one felt worse than him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He thought it was a base hit. He didn’t pick up [third-base coach] Scott [Ullger] rounding third. He had his head down. [Derek] Jeter makes a play, and there you have it.”







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
                     &
nbsp;                              ***********
“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




Yanks Get Tex Message In 11th To Go Up 2-0

ALDS, GAME 2
YANKEES 4, TWINS 3 (11 INNINGS)


If the majority of the baseball writers who vote for the American League Most Valuable Player award wrote in Mark Teixeira for the top spot, they were vindicated on Friday night.
Teixeira, who singled in the bottom of the ninth ahead of Alex Rodriguez’s two-run home run that tied the game at three, saved his best dramatics for the bottom of the 11th. He led off the inning with a lined bullet off Jose Mijales (0-1) down the leftfield line that hit the top of the wall and bounced into the bleachers as the Minnesota Twins lost their fourth walk-off game of the season to the New York Yankees.

“I really thought it was going to be a double, because I hit it with so much topspin,” Teixeira said. “I hit it hard, but there was so much topspin, I thought there was no chance it was going to get out. I was running hard, making sure I got two. Then the crowd started going nuts — I figured it was a home run.”

This was the Yankees first playoff walk-off victory since Aaron Boone’s home run off Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the deciding game of the 2003 American League Championship Series.
Yankee fans had wondered aloud if the so-called “ghosts” of the old Yankee Stadium would come across the street this season. They may have got their answer, according to Derek Jeter.

“They’ve been showing up all year,” Jeter said to MLB.com. “We’ve had a lot of fun games here, comebacks. You don’t like to fall behind, but if and when we do, we feel that we have a lot of confidence that we can come back.

“It seems like it’s been a magical year so far here, and hopefully, we have a few more great moments.”

With the victory, the Yankees now have a 2-0 stranglehold on the Twins in the American League Division Series as the scene will shift from the very raucous Bronx to the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Saturday.

“Hopefully, we finish the goal that we’ve put out for ourselves all year,” Teixeira told MLB.com. “Right now, you can enjoy it for a couple of hours, but if you don’t take care of business, it kind of loses its magic, I think.”
The walk-off win was set up, as it so often has been in this magical 103-victory season for the Yankees, by some sensational work out of the bullpen. On Friday night, it was no different.
David Robertson (1-0) entered the game in the top of the 11th inning after lefthander Damaso Marte had failed to retire the two lefthanded hitters he was called upon to face — Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel had both singled.
Robertson, who almost did not make the team’s postseason roster because of a sore elbow that shelved him for over three weeks, did give up a single to Michael Cuddyer but Twins’ third-base coach Scott Ullger elected to hold Mauer at third to keep the bases loaded.
Robertson then had to face Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez and Brendan Harris with no safety net.
Young ripped the first pitch but it was hit right to Teixeira at first base.
One out.
Robertson then induced Gomez to also swing at the first pitch and the speedy outfielder slapped a weak grounder to Teixeira. The Gold Glove first baseman, realizing he could not double up Gomez, carefully threw home to make sure he could retire Mauer on a force at the plate.
Two out.
Robertson then had to battle Harris, who had entered the game only because third baseman Matt Tolbert had to leave with a left oblique strain. 
But Harris earlier had tripled in the Twins’ first run of the game in sixth inning and later singled and scored a run in the Twins two-run eighth as they took a 3-1 lead. Harris had also made a sensational diving stop to flag down a potential Derek Jeter hit in the eighth inning. In other words, he had been a thorn in Yankees side all evening.
But on a 1-1 fastball to Harris, Robertson got him to fly out easily to Brett Gardner in centerfield. 
Three out.
Most of the record crowd of 50,006 at the new Yankee Stadium rose as one to cheer Robertson’s effort as he calmly sauntered head down to the dugout.
“Everybody wants to get out of that situation, but nobody really wants to get stuck in that situation,” Robertson told MLB.com. “I was just lucky enough to get out of it.”
The inning, however, was not spared from its share of controversy. Mauer’s single off Marte came after he had earlier hit a pop fly down the leftfield line that ticked off Melky Cabrera’s glove, bounced and landed in the bleachers in foul territory.
Leftfield umpire Phil Cuzzi signaled the ball was foul but television replays showed that the ball had landed about a foot fair and should have been a ground-rule double. But no one on the Twins protested the call.

“There’s always that element of human error in the game, and we got a little break,” Girardi said to MLB.com.

Rodriguez, who entered the game off a two-hit, two-RBI night against the Twins in Game 1, stuck another dagger in the hearts of the Twins’ faithful in the ninth inning. 

With the Yankees trailing 3-1, Teixeira ripped a single to open the inning off Twins closer Joe Nathan, who had 47 saves and an ERA of 2.10 this season. Rodriguez followed and he watched patiently as Nathan threw three consecutive breaking pitches out of the strike zone. A-Rod then took a 3-0 fastball that hit the outside corner for a strike.
But he jumped on Nathan’s next fastball, which was elevated in the strike zone, and Rodriguez drove the ball into the Bronx night sky and it landed in the beefy hands of Yankees pitching coach Mike Harkey in the bullpen.
Yankees fans, who had seen many miracle playoff comebacks in the old Cathedra
l, were treated to another on this evening. Rodriguez, who had been maligned and vilified for his failures to hit in the clutch in past postseasons with the Yankees, took a happy curtain call from the fans after tying the game.
“Obviously, we needed it,” Rodriguez said. “It’s the way we’ve been playing baseball all year. Nothing has changed for us. There’s been a lot of magic in there, and everybody has contributed. For me, personally, that was a lot of fun.”
The Twins were not only bitten badly by the Teixeira and Rodriguez home runs. They also were victims of an incredible night of not getting the big hit at the right time. They left a total of 17 runners on base in 11 innings, the fifth worst number in postseason history dating back to 1903. 
They were handed many chances by Yankees pitchers but failed to cash in with the big one that would have put the game away.
Yankees righthander A.J. Burnett, starting his first postseason game, was effectively wild throughout the game, In the first five innings, he walked four, hit two batters and gave up two hits. But the Twins were unable to push any runs across until the sixth inning.
With two outs and Delmon Young at second base after a stolen base, Harris blasted a 3-1 Burnett fastball off the top of the wall in left-center as Johnny Damon fell and Cabrera missed the carom off the wall and Harris reached third. Burnett escaped further damage by retiring Nick Punto on a groundout but he was removed from the game.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were having problems hitting Twins righthander Nick Blackburn, who also was starting his first postseason game. In the first four innings, Blackburn only issued a walk to Hideki Matsui in the second inning. Robinson Cano broke up any Twins thoughts of a potential no-hitter in the fifth inning with a two-out single.
But once again, the Yankees waited until the Twins scored in the sixth to get their offense going for themselves in their half of the inning.
With one out, Jeter lined double to right-center and Damon coaxed a walk from Blackburn on a full count. Teixera flew out to left for the second out and both runners could not advance.
But Rodriguez, relishing his new role as the Yankees’ latest Mr. October, singled sharply into left to score Jeter to tie the score at 1.
Rodriguez is now 4-for-8 for the first two games series with three singles, a home run and five RBIs. He entered the series on an 0-for-19 slide with runners in scoring position.
“I’m going out there and having fun doing the best that I can,” Rodriguez said to MLB.com. “It’s kind of what I’ve done here for 4 1/2 months since I’ve been back. Hopefully, it continues.”
The Yankees vaunted bullpen, however, hiccuped badly in the top of the eighth.
Phil Hughes, who pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in Game 1, retired Cuddyer and Young to start the inning. However, he was unable to put away Gomez on a 3-2 pitch and walked him. 
Harris, playing the role of a pest to the hilt, then singled to right as Gomez steamed into third. Punto then stroked a hanging 2-2 curveball up the middle to score Gomez. 
Manager Joe Girardi then opted to bring in closer Mariano Rivera to try to limit the damage but Rivera gave up a single to right to Denard Span that scored Harris with an insurance run to make the score 3-1.
One run the Twins really would have liked to have posted in their run column was left on the basepaths in the fourth inning. With two outs, Burnett hit both Young and Gomez with inside fastballs. Tolbert followed with a clean single to rightfield that looked as if it would score Young easily from second.
However, Gomez rounded second base and quickly decided to go back to second base. His feet slipped out from underneath him and Gomez fell. But just as he scrambled to his feet and headed back to second Swisher had alertly thrown to Jeter at second base. Jeter managed to apply the tag on Gomez just before Young could touch home plate.
The run did not count. 
An oblivious Burnett had to be told when he reached the dugout that the run did not count and he excitedly high-fived Swisher as the rightfielder reached the dugout.
The so-called “Catchergate” scandal surrounding Burnett, however, was not a major consequence in the game. Burnett left the game after six innings and — because Blacksburn was effective early — backup catcher Jose Molina got only one at-bat in the third inning before starting catcher Jorge Posada pinch-hit for him in the sixth.
Girardi had announced in Tuesday’s press conference that Molina would catch Burnett instead of Posada, which had angered the five-time All-Star catcher. 
Posada did deliver a one-out single in the 10th off the embattled Nathan and was lifted for pinch-runner Gardner, who stole second and reached third when Nathan’s pickoff attempt at second went sailing into centerfield. 
But after Jeter drew a walk and Nathan was removed in favor of Mijales, Damon lined into a double play because Gardner had elected to run on contact and he was easily doubled off third.
But the Yankees, who managed to provide their fans 15 walk-off victories this season, delivered their fans the first of the 2009 playoffs.
Burnett topped off the evening by delivering what has become the ritual whipped cream pie to Teixeira’s face as he was being interviewed by TBS television.
“A.J. told me, ‘I finally got you,'” Teixeira said. “So if I’m going to get one this season, I’m glad I waited to the postseason. It was fun.”
The Twins, probably still reeling after seeing so many chances come their way only to fail to win, now head into Game 3 with an 0-9 record against the Yankees this season and they also must deal with the fact that in all six games this season at Yankee Stadium they have had the lead only to eventually lose the game.
Game 3 will also provide a bit of a drama as former Yankees righthander Carl Pavano (14-12, 5.10 ERA) will take the mound in the Metrodome on Sunday night. Pavano has never been a fan or team favorite in New York after he spent most of the time collecting a four-year, $40 million free-agent contract he penned with the Yankees on the disabled list.
He will be opposed by veteran lefthander Andy Pettitte (14-8, 4.16 ERA). Pettitte has a career record of 9-5 with a 3.70 ERA against the Twins. Pettitte, in his only start against the Twins this season on May 18, gave up 12 hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium but won the game 7-6.
Gametime will be 7:07 p.m. EDT.