Tagged: Ron Gardenhire

CC Notches His 200th As Yankees Frustrate Twins

GAME 84

YANKEES 3, TWINS 2

It came in his 401st career start and it came in his second attempt at it, but CC Sabathia was able to join a very elite club of major-league pitchers on Wednesday.

Red-hot Robinson Cano keyed the offense with a huge two-run double in the sixth inning and Sabathia struck out nine batters in seven strong innings to earn his 200th major-league victory as he and New York continued their unbelievable dominance over Minnesota in front of a sellout crowd of 38,457 at Target Field.

Sabathia (9-6) became the 27th pitcher in major-league baseball history to win his 200th game before his 33rd birthday and only the eighth pitcher to do so after 1961.

The veteran left-hander held the Twins to only two runs on seven hits and three walks to run his record against the Twins to 11-0 in his last 12 starts  –  which includes the playoffs  –  dating back to Aug. 3, 2007.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have now won three straight against the Twins after they had dropped their previous five games.

Cano entered the evening 12-for-21 (.571) with four homers and eight RBIs, three of those home runs coming against the Twins. He struck again against rookie right-hander P.J. Walters after Walters had shut out the Yankees on only one hit and two walks in the first five innings.

With the Twins ahead 2-0, Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki followed by slashing a line drive that struck the wall down the right-field line just inside the foul line for a double.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire elected to have Walters pitch to Cano with a base open and Cano made both Gardenhire and Walters pay for it when he lashed a two-run double to right-center.

Travis Hafner chased Walters (2-5) when he slapped an opposite field single to left to advance Cano to third.

One out later, Lyle Overbay plated Cano with the go-ahead by lining a sacrifice fly to center-field off left-hander Caleb Thielbar.

Walters was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks while he fanned three in five-plus innings of work.

The Twins took a 1-0 lead off Sabathia in the third inning when Brian Dozier drew a leadoff walk and Joe Mauer followed with an RBI double to the wall in left-center.

The Twins, however, missed a golden opportunity to add to their 1-0 lead in the inning when newly signed Yankee shortstop Luis Cruz airmailed a routine grounder off the bat of Ryan Doumit over Overbay’s head for an error that advanced Mauer to third with no outs.

Sabathia then struck out Justin Morneau swinging, retired Trevor Plouffe on a fly ball to shallow right and fanned Oswaldo Arcia swinging to end the threat.

The Twins did add a run with two out in the fifth inning when Plouffe connected off Sabathia for his eighth homer of the season to straightaway center.

But for the third consecutive evening the Yankees were able to come from behind to take the lead and hold it against the Twins.

David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Mariano Rivera shut out the Twins in the ninth for his 28th save in 29 chances this season. It was the 636th career save for the 41-year-old right-hander and 35 of them have come against the Twins.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 45-39 and they remain six games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. But they edged a half-game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in third place in the division. The Twins, who have now lost four in a row, are 36-45.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It was nice to see Sabathia get his 200th victory after he threw five no-hit innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday only to end up losing the game 4-3. Despite the nine strikeouts, Sabathia did have some command issues that raised his pitch count in the early innings. He ended up throwing a season-high 121 pitches.
  • Cano finished the evening 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs. In his past six games, Cano is 14-for-24 (.584) with four home runs and 10 RBIs. It is odd that the Twins elected to pitch to him with first base open and no outs in the sixth, but Cano is beginning to deliver the big hit. In fact, when he lined out to center in the eighth it took a diving catch by Aaron Hicks to get him out.
  • Rivera is continuing his farewell tour of American League cities and he is absolutely rolling in his final season. Rivera is 1-1 with 28 saves with an amazing 1.44 ERA. At 43 years of age Rivera is a lock to be invited to his 13th All-Star Game. The odd thing is they would not be inviting him out of sentiment. Rivera honestly is STILL among the elite closers in baseball. Amazing!

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankee offense was poor on Wednesday. They made the soft-tossing rookie Walters look like Greg Maddux for the first five innings. The No. 5 through No. 9 spots in the order were a combined 0-for-15 with six strikeouts. It was just lucky they strung together three of their four hits in the sixth inning to take the lead.
  • Cruz, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Dodgers, was signed as a free agent earlier in the day and ended up starting at shortstop for the Yankees. He was 0-for-3 and committed a throwing error that could have been costly if Sabathia had not pitched his way out of the jam. But Cruz did drive a ball to deep left in the fifth that Arcia grabbed at the wall to rob him of at least a double.
  • Chris Stewart ‘s problems at the plate continue. He was 0-for-4 and now has not gotten a hit in his past 14 at-bats. His season average continues to plummet. His 0-for-4 evening dropped his average to .238. It looks as if the career .223 hitter is falling back to his norm.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees signed Cruz because they placed infielder Jayson Nix on the 15-day disabled list as of July 2 with a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. Nix sustained the injury running out a double in Monday’s game against the Twins. Crus, 29, was released by the Dodgers after hitting .127 in 45 games. He was designated for assignment on June 28 and opted to become a free agent rather than accept an offer to play for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Cruz, a right-hand hitter, can play both shortstop and third base. Cruz becomes the fifth player to play shortstop for the Yankees this season in place of Derek Jeter. Eduardo Nunez, Nix, Reid Brignac and Alberto Gonzalez have also played the position this season.

ON DECK

The Yankees can actually sweep the Twins in the four-game series with a victory on Thursday.

Right-hander David Phelps (5-5, 4.95 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Phelps was treated like a piñata by the Orioles on Sunday. He gave up a career-high nine runs in 2 1/3 innings. He has never faced the Twins.

The Twins will counter with rookie right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.00 ERA). Gibson gave up two runs on eight hits in six innings in his major-league debut on Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. Gibson will get his first look at the Yankees.

Game-time will be at 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

6-Run Third Allows CC, Yanks To Cruise By Twins

GAME 155

YANKEES 8, TWINS 2

It is bad enough that the Minnesota Twins have struggled to beat the Yankees during Ron Gardenhire’s reign as manager. But when you add in the fact they have been unable to beat CC Sabathia while he has sported a Yankee uniform then you can just imagine how things went for the Twins on Wednesday.

The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate as they erupted for six runs in the third inning and Sabathia tossed eight dominant innings to collect his 14th victory as New York clinched both the season series and three-game road series against Minnesota in front of 33,251 at Target Field.

Sabathia (14-6) gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while he struck 10 to run his record against the Twins since he joined the Yankees in 2009, including playoff games, to 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA . The victory also was Sabathia’s first victory since Aug. 24 and broke a personal three-game losing streak.

The Yankees also maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East with only seven games left to play.

The Twins led the Yankees 1-0 on a one-out single by Matt Carson that scored Ryan Doumit from second in the second inning.

That lead was short-lived, however, when Chris Dickerson slapped a one-out single up the middle off Twins reliever Brian Duensing in the third inning. Ichiro Suzuki added a single to center of his own and Derek Jeter drew a walk to load the bases.

Robinson Cano then smacked a scorching line-drive double over the head of right-fielder Ben Revere in right-field to score Dickerson and Suzuki as Jeter advanced to third.

Nick Swisher blooped a single into right-field to score Jeter and Curtis Granderson followed with a two-run triple off the right-field wall.

Duensing then threw a pitch to Eric Chavez in the dirt that eluded Doumit and Granderson scored easily to give Sabathia and the Yankees a comfortable 6-1 cushion.

The Yankees added a pair of runs in the sixth inning on a leadoff double by Raul Ibanez off reliever Anthony Swarzak and a one-out, two-run home run off the bat of Dickerson for his second home run of the season.

Duensing (4-11) was pressed into service with two out in the second inning because starting pitcher Samuel Deduno was forced to leave the game with severe irritation in his left eye that impaired his vision.

Duensing gave up six runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out one in one inning of work.

The Twins scored a run in the seventh when Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla strung together a pair of two-out singles and rookie Pedro Florimon scored Carroll when he hit a ball that caromed off Sabathia’s left shin and rolled into right-field.

But, Sabathia was firmly in control of the game. Among his 10 strikeouts, the last five were called and he also struck out Joe Mauer, who entered the contest the second-leading hitter in the American League at .326, the first three times he faced him on just nine pitches. Mauer finished the game 0-for-4.

The Yankees won their 90th game of the season – versus 65 losses – and its the 11th season in the past 12 years the Yankees have won at least 90 games. They also have won the last six season series against the Twins, whose season record fell to 65-91.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Don’t take my word for how good Sabathia was, let Mauer tell it: “That’s the best I’ve seen him, and I’ve been watching him for a long time.” Sabathia threw 108 pitches – his third highest pitch count of the season – and 89 of them were strikes. That is a 75% strike percentage. Sabathia not only registered 94 mph on his fastball but he had superior command of it through out the contest.
  • Despite the fact that Gardenhire brought in a left-hander to replace the right-handed Deduno, lefty sluggers Cano and Granderson came through with a pair of two-run extra-base hits to give Sabathia all the run support he really needed. Though neither Cano or Granderson are having career years, Granderson has 97 RBIs and Cano has 82.
  • Dickerson got a rare start in left-field and took advantage of it by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. Because of the Yankees overload at the outfield position, Dickerson does not figure in the team’s plans with its postseason roster. But it is good to see someone from the September call-ups contribute at a crucial point of the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

In a game where Sabathia was in total command and the offense scored eight runs despite the fact Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira were not in the lineup you really can’t find fault with anything in this one. The Yankees’ best defense against losing the A.l. East title is just to keep winning and they have won 12 of their last 16 games.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez was held out of the lineup and did not play on Wednesday due to a sore left foot after he fouled a ball of the foot in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game. Rodriguez stayed in the game but he said the foot stiffened up overnight. Though no X-rays were ordered, manager Joe Girardi believes Rodriguez will be available to play on Thursday.  . . .  Brett Gardner was used as a ninth inning defensive replacement in left-field, marking his first game action since he suffered a strained right elbow making a diving catch in a game ironically against the Twins on April 17. Both Gardner and veteran reliever David Aardsma were activated off the disabled on Tuesday and the team designated for assignment infielder Steve Pearce and left-handed reliever Justin Thomas to make room for them on the roster.

ON DECK

The Yankees make their final road stop of the season in Toronto to begin a four-game series with the Blue Jays on Thursday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Nova could not make it out of the third inning in his last start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. But the Yankees won the game 10-9 in the 14th inning. Nova is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in his career against the Jays.

Right-hander Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28 ERA) will get the start for the Blue Jays. Morrow was tagged for four runs in five innings and he walked a season-high four in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays. He is 4-2 with a 4.08 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Pettitte Wins Again As Yanks Take Target Practice

GAME 153

YANKEES 6, TWINS 3

Whenever manager Ron Gardenhire sees Andy Pettitte scheduled to pitch against his Twins he must cringe. After all, Pettitte last lost to the Twins in 2001 in a complete game he lost to Brad Radke 2-1.

Monday was no different for Pettitte and the Yankees took a little target practice at the outfield seats at Target Field.

In his second game back after coming off the disabled list, Pettitte threw six shutout innings and four Yankees hit home runs as New York extended its lead in the American League East by defeating Minnesota in front of paid crowd of 33,720.

Pettitte (5-3) scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out three batters to extend his record his against the Twins to 10-0 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 12 starts against them dating back to the 2009 season.

Meanwhile, the Yankee offense staked him to a first-inning lead against rookie right-hander Liam Hendriks (1-8) when Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki doubled to to right field.

One out later, Robinson Cano scored Jeter with an infield grounder and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run blast into the second deck in right-center, his 23rd home run of the season and the first of the four-homer deluge the Yankees put on the Twins. It was the most home runs the Twins have given up in a game all season.

With one out in the fourth inning, Curtis Granderson took Hendriks deep for his 40th home run of the season, becoming the only player in the major leagues who has has hit 40 or more home runs the past two seasons. He also is the fifth Yankee player to hit 40 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.

Raul Ibanez led off the seventh inning with a tape=measure blast down the right-field line and into the third deck of the stadium for his 18th home run of the season and his third in his past three games.

One-out later, Eric Chavez lined an opposite-field shot just out of the reach of left-fielder Josh Willingham for his 14th home run of the season and Hendriks’ evening was mercifully ended with him trailing 6-0.

Hendriks was tagged for eight hits, he walked one batter and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.

Though Petitte was far from perfect – he had only two 1-2-3 innings – he managed to get out of trouble on ground balls, a strikeout and with a great defensive play by Granderson.

Pettitte gave up a pair of singles to Denard Span and Ben Revere to start the first inning and he walked Willingham with one out o load the bases. But he escaped any damage by striking out Justin Morneau looking and getting Ryan Doumit to bounce into a forceout.

Span and Mauer singled and were on first and third with one out in the third but Pettitte induced Willingham to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the fourth, Doumit hit a one-out double to center and with two out Jamey Carroll singled up the middle. Granderson charged the ball in shallow center and fired it on one-hop home to catcher Russell Martin, who tagged Doumit on the left shoulder before he could reach home plate.

The Twins ruined the shutout in the eighth when rookie Pedro Florimon hit his first major-league home run off reliever Cory Wade.

They added two runs in the ninth after left-hander Justin Thomas gave up a one-out single to Morneau and walked Doumit. David Robertson came in to strike out Trevor Plouffe but pinch-hitter Chris Parmalee cracked a triple off the wall in center to score both runners.

Robertson then ended the contest by getting Florimon to ground out to Cano at second.

The Yankees have now won 26 of their last 33 games against the Twins and, combined with the Baltimore Orioles’ split of a doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays, they now have a 1 1/2-game lead in the division with eight games left to play.

The Yankees season record is now 89-64. The Twins fell to 64-90.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In his two starts since coming off the disabled list with a fractured fibula, Pettitte is 2-0 and he has held the opposition scoreless over 11 innings, giving up 11 hits and three walks while striking out six. Pettitte will have one more start before the playoffs and he would be in line to start either a tie-breaker game or the wild-card playoff game, if necessary.
  • Jeter’s singled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. He is 30-for-81 (.370) with a home run and 11 RBIs in those 16 contests. Suzuki’s double in the first extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over than span, Suzuki is 16-for-30 (.533) with two home runs, four doubles and five RBIs. With Jeter and Suzuki at the top of the order the Yankees have been rolling.
  • After looking absolutely lost at the plate for most of the past month, Ibanez looks to be coming out of his long slump with a flourish. In the past three games, Ibanez is 7-for-12 (.583) with three home runs and five RBIs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I could quibble about the Yankees giving up three runs late but Wade and Thomas are two pitchers who will not be on the team’s playoff roster. Manager Joe Girardi was hoping to rest Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan and Robertson, but he was forced to bring in Robertson in the ninth. That was the only real negative.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixiera took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran the bases at half-speed at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL, on Monday as he tries to recover from a Grade 1 strain of his left calf. Though general manager Brian Cashman targeted Thursday for Teixeira’s return, Girardi expressed concern about playing Teixeira on the artificial surface at Rogers Centre in Toronto.  . . .  Veteran right-handed reliever David Aardsma was with the team on Monday and he could be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Aardsma, 30, has not pitched not pitched in the major leagues since he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2011 and he was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in February. Aardsma recorded 31 saves for the Mariners in 2010 after saving 38 games with a 2.53 ERA in 2009.  . . .  Chavez was highly critical of the current members of his former Oakland Athletics club and their antics over the weekend. Chavez was not happy with the way the team was celebrating in the visitor’s dugout after they hit three home runs to take a 9-5 lead in the 13th inning of Saturday’s game. Chavez called the display immature and unprofessional. The Yankees, however, had the last laugh by scoring four runs in the bottom of the 13th before scoring the winning run in the 14th on a bases-loaded error.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series in Minneapolis with the Twins on Tuesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (16-12) will start for the Yankees. Hughes earned his third straight victory, despite giving up four runs in five innings against the Blue Jays in his last start. Hughes is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA lifetime against the Twins, including a victory against them on April 19 in which he gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Twins will counter with right-hander Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 6.75 ERA). Vasquez, 28, has failed to turn in quality start in any of his four outings this season, including his last start against the Cleveland Indians. He has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 8:10 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by MY9.

 

Stewart’s 3 RBIs Boost CC To Win Over Twins

GAME 11

YANKEES 8, TWINS 3

It is not easy replacing a popular player, particularly when he is really loved by Yankee fans. But Chris Stewart may have taken his first big step on Tuesday in helping those fans get over the absence of backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.

Stewart stroked a bases-loaded single to drive in two runs that gave the Yankees the lead as part of a four-run third inning as New York’s sputtering offense came alive to support the solid pitching of CC Sabathia and New York defeated Minnesota at Yankee Stadium.

Stewart was claimed off waivers from the Giants on the final day of spring training by the Yankees and, because Stewart was out of options, the team opted to send Cervelli to Triple-A.

Trailing 3-1 entering the third inning, Andruw Jones started what proved to be the winning rally with a one-out single off Francisco Liriano (0-2). Curtis Granderson followed with a single down the right-field line that was bobbled by outfielder Trevor Plouffe and both runners moved up a base. Eduardo Nunez then slapped a ball in the hole at shortstop that Jamey Carroll could only knock down and Jones scored.

Liriano then issued his fourth walk in 2 1/3 innings to Brett Gardner to load the bases and Stewart chased the left-hander from the game with a lined single down the left-field line that scored Granderson and Nunez.

Derek Jeter capped the four-run eruption with a sacrifice fly reliever Mark Maloney to score Gardner.

Much like he had in his first two starts, Sabathia (1-0) struggled early in the game, giving up a solo home run to Josh Willingham in the second inning. With one out in the third, he gave up a single to Alexi Casilla, committed a balk to put him at second, pinch-hitter Clete Thomas then doubled to drive in Casilla and Carroll followed with a RBI single to score Thomas.

But after that point, Sabathia turned into the CC that Yankee fans are used to seeing. He retired the next 13 batters in a row until he walked Plouffe with two outs in the seventh. He did not allow another hit and left after giving up just the three runs on four hits and one walk and he struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings.

It was only the Yankees’ third quality start for their pitchers in the first 11 games.

Liriano, meanwhile, has now turned in three horrible starts in a row. He was hammered for five runs on seven hits and four walks and struck out two batters in only 2 1/3 innings. Liriano has now surrendered 17 runs (15 earned) in 11 1/3 innings over three starts. His ERA is now a stratospheric 11.91.

With the victory the Yankees are 6-5 on the season. The Twins are 3-8.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Mark it down that the first official Sabathia sighting was in the fourth inning of tonight’s game with the Twins. Sabathia settled in once he got the lead and shut down the Twins through the eighth inning. After throwing 59 pitches in the first three innings, Sabathia made it to one out in the eighth needing only 52 more (33 of them were strikes). Sabathia is habitually a slow starter who hits his stride in the summer months.
  • Last night the top part of the order carried the offense, going 8-for-16 but the team scored only three runs – all in the first inning. Tonight it was the bottom of the order that carried the team. Jones (batting fifth),  Granderson (batting sixth), Nunez (batting seventh), Gardner (batting eighth) and Stewart (batting ninth) were a combined 9-for-19 (.474) with three walks, they scored all eight of the Yankees’ runs and drove in six.
  • Gardner is very quietly have a very good season at the plate. He was 2-for-2 with an RBI double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored three runs. Gardner is hitting .321 early in the season and he is looking like he does not want to be taken out of the lineup against left-handers. Gardner also made a great diving catch off the bat Willingham to end the Twins’ two-run rally in the third inning.
  • Stewart is a career .203 major-league hitter with only 13 RBIs. On Tuesday, he was 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Stewart added an RBI single in the seventh off reliever Jeff Gray to his two-run single in the third that proved to be the game-winner. Realistically the Yankees only want Stewart to shine as a defensive catcher and they do not care what he hits. But I am sure they appreciated his effort at the plate.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It is pretty safe to say that the Yankees are looking from big things from Alex Rodriguez after he missed 63 games last season and he is coming off a very good spring. Well, the Yankees are still waiting because he was 0-for-4 on Tuesday and it dropped his average to .227. with one home run and two RBIs.
  • A-Rod was batting fourth and the Yankees are still the only team in baseball who have not gotten an RBI from their cleanup hitter this season. Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have shared that spot this season. Cano was 1-for-5 in the game and is hitting .239 with no home runs and one RBI.
  • Hopefully the Yankees will only see the Sabathia who pitched so well after the third inning. Early in the game, Sabathia was having problems with fastball command, as he had in first two starts. With the effort Sabathia won his first game and lowered his ERA to 5.59. Needless to say, there is a lot of room for improvement in that ERA.

BOMBER BANTER

Home-plate umpire Greg Gibson was a busy man on Tuesday. He not only ejected Twins center-fielder Denard Span for arguing a strike call in the third inning, Gibson also gave the heave-ho to manager Ron Gardnehire right after Span. From the replays, it appeared that Span had a legitimate complaint. Sabathia’s first pitch looked well of the plate inside. But the Twins should not be too upset because they benefitted from the very odd strike zone of Gerry Davis on Monday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play the third game of the four-game home series with the Twins on Wednesday.

The Yankees will send 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.63 ERA) to the mound. Kuroda is coming off eight scoreless innings in his Yankee Stadium debut against the Angels last Friday. Kuroda only gave up five hits, walking two and striking out six. He has never faced the Twins.

The Angels will counter with right-hander Jason Marquis, who will be making his 2012 debut after making two rehab starts at Double-A New Britain. Marquis missed two weeks of spring training after his 7-year-old daughter was seriously injured in a bicycle accident. Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

CC Wins No. 17 As Yankees Power Past Twins

GAME 122

YANKEES 8, TWINS 4

CC Sabathia came to Target Field on Thursday to get his pitches back on target.

After the first two innings it looked as if he hadn’t. But the ace left-hander settled down and he left the game after seven innings with a lead to pick up his 17th victory as New York defeated Minnesota.

Sabathia, who entered the game having given up 12 runs over 14 innings in his last two starts, was handed an early 1-0 lead in the second inning on a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly. However, Sabathia handed it right back to the Twins by giving up two runs in the second.

Up to that point Sabathia had been tagged for four hits and a walk. It could have been even worse if a first-inning home run call in favor of Justin Morneau had not been reversed by the umpiring crew on replay as a foul ball. Joe Mauer was on first and it would have been a two-run home run if the call had stood.

But home-plate umpire Brian O’Nora reviewed the call, determined the ball was foul and sent Mauer back to first. Twins manager Ron Gardnehire immediately argued the reversal and O’Nora ejected him from the game. It is the second straight night the Yankees have been involved in controversial home run reviewed by the umpires.

Sabathia (17-7) settled down to retire the last two batters in the second and then 12 of the next 15 batters he faced before he was touched for two runs in the seventh inning. Sabathia ended up surrendering four runs (three earned) on nine hits and a walk and he fanned nine batters.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were much more effective in roughing up Twins left-hander Brian Duensing (8-12).

They reclaimed the 1-0 lead Sabthia gave up in the second when Curtis Granderson led off the third inning with a triple to left-center. He scored when Mark Teixeira blasted his 33rd home run of the season into the left-field bleachers.

The Yankees then again used the long ball to extend their lead in the fifth. Teixera opened the inning with a double down the left-field line. One out later, Nick Swisher blasted his 15th home run of the season into the left-field seats. Andruw Jones followed that with a titanic solo shot, his eighth of the season, into the second deck in the left-field bleachers to give the Yankees a 6-2 edge.

Duensing gave up six runs on 10 hits and a walk and fanned one over five innings.

Sabathia opened the seventh by giving up a single Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Drew Butera moved Nishioka to third with a single to left. Ben Revere plated Nishioka with a single to right and then Eduardo Nunez botched an infield grounder by Trevor Plouffe to load the bases with no outs.

Sabathia gave up a sac fly to Mauer that scored Butera and drew the Twins to within two runs. However, Morneau flew out to right and Robinson Cano saved Sabathia a run — and possibly the game — by making a diving stop of Jim Thome’s hard-hit grounder. Cano was playing deep but had to dive headlong to stop the ball. He got up and threw out Thome to end the Twins’ threat.

The Yankees tacked on two runs in the ninth off reliever Matt Capps. Capps entered the game with two outs in the inning and walked Jones. Nunez doubled to left-center to advance Jones to third. Francisco Cervelli then hit a 2-2 pitch down the line and off third baseman Danny Valencia’s glove to score Jones and Nunez to pad the Yankees’ lead to four.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 75-47 and they maintained their half-game lead in the American League East over the Boston Red Sox. The Twins fell to 54-69.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira reached base four times with a home run, a double and two walks. His home run drew him to within one of teammate Curtis Granderson for second place in the major leagues at 34. Teixeira’s two RBIs on the night give him 91 for the season. Teixeira has not failed to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs in a season since his rookie season in 2003. With nine more RBIs he will have eight straight seasons of hitting those benchmarks.
  • Swisher’s home run was his first since he hit a home run in each part of a day-night doubleheader against the Orioles on July 30. Though Swisher hit a robust .323 in July, He has cooled off considerably in August, hitting .263 with one home run and five RBIs.
  • Granderson was 3-for-5 in the game with a triple and two singles. He also scored his major-league-leading 112th run. He also leads the American League in triples with 10. But Granderson also displayed some fielding prowess with two outfield assists in the first two innings. In the first he cut off a drive in left-center by Plouffe and threw Plouffe out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double. The next inning Granderson had a line drive off the bat of Butera hit off the bottom of his glove, which scored the Twins’ second run of the inning. But, Granderson picked up the ball and fired to Derek Jeter to retire Nishioka, who ran back to first thinking Granderson had caught the ball. Butera was robbed of a hit because the play was scored a fielder’s choice.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite Sabathia’s victory, he did not pitch well for the third straight game. In his last three starts, Sabathia has given up 16 runs (15 earned) on 29 hits and two walks in 22 innings. That is an ERA of 6.14 and a walks-to-innings-pitched ratio (WHIP) of 1.41. Command of the fastball seems to be biggest issue. Sabathia is leaving pitches up in the strike zone or missing altogether. It is a concern because the Yankees have just 40 games left in the regular season.
  • Gardner was the only starter without a hit in the game but he did contribute the sac fly in the second that started the scoring for the Yankees. Though he is hitting .295 for the month, Gardner is suddenly hitless in his last nine at-bats.
  • Nunez made yet another error. This one was pretty inexplicable. He caught the bouncer off the bat of Plouffe but dropped the ball as he moved to third to force out Butera. It is his 16th error of the season and he leads the Yankees by far in that category.

BOMBER BANTER

Former Yankee manager and current executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre said Thursday that an umpire misinterpreted the ground rules at Kauffman Stadium in awarding a home run to Billy Butler of the Royals the previous nigh in a game against the Yankees. Butler lined a ball that hit off the left-field wall and was ruled a home run. Girardi disputed the home run and the umpires reviewed the call by use of instant replay. But crew chief Dana DeMuth misunderstood the ground rules in awarding the home run to Kansas City, who ended up winning the game 5-4. Girardi did not protest the game before a pitch was made to the next batter and therefore the call will stand, Torre said. Of course, had Girardi protested the game it still would be a moot point and the Yankees would have just received an apology letter from Major League Baseball.  . . .   Freddy Garcia had his bullpen session pushed back a day to Friday. Garcia, who has a cut on a finger of his right hand, will throw on Friday and it is looking unlikely he will be able to start in the series against the Twins this weekend.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez rejoined the Yankees on Thursday but he was not activated and looks as if he will not play until at least Saturday. Rodriguez has been sidelined since having surgery on July 11 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

ON DECK

The Yankees continue their four-game series with the Twins on Friday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (3-4, 6.55 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes pitched his best game of the season against the Rays last week, allowing two runs in six innings. He is 3-3 with a 4.28 ERA since returning from the disabled list in July. He is 0-0 with a 3.68 ERA in his career against the Twins.

The Twins will counter with right-hander Kevin Slowey (0-0, 4.91 ERA). Slowey will be making his first start of season because his scheduled start Sunday against the Indians was rained out. He is 1-1 with a 4.56 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be at 8:10 p.m EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

Berkman, Pettitte Lead Yankees To Win Over Cursed  Twins

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES – GAME 2
YANKEES 5, TWINS 2

When Andy Pettitte joined the Houston Astros as a free agent he became good friends with Lance Berkman. When Berkman agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the New York Yankees on July 31, Berkman quickly renewed his friendship with Pettitte.
On Thursday night the two friends wreaked havoc on the Minnesota Twins and put the defending champions to within one game of their second straight American League Championship Series.
Pettitte (1-0) took care of the pitching. 
He gave up two runs on only five hits and one walk and struck out four batters in seven innings of masterful work. Pettitte also increased his major-league-leading postseason win total to 19 games.
Even better than that, he silenced doubters throughout the media who said he could not be counted upon to pitch effectively with only three tune-up starts after coming off the disabled list with a groin injury.
Berkman took care of the clutch hitting.
With the game tied at one and with one out in the fifth inning, Berkman connected off Twins’ starter Carl Pavano for a long majestic opposite field blast into the Twins’ bullpen in left-center. The home run was the seventh postseason home run for Berkman and his first since 2005.
Unfortunately for Berkman and Pettitte, Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson dialed it up a solo home run of his own with one out in the sixth inning. To say Pettitte was shocked is putting it mildly. Hudson has only 86 career home runs in nine seasons and he hit only six this season.
The blast to left was only Hudson’s second postseason home run. In other words, Albert Pujols has nothing to worry about.
Berkman merely shook off the setback and went to work in the seventh inning. Jorge Posada opened the inning by drawing Pavano’s only walk. It cost Pavano dearly, too.
Berkman quickly fell behind Pavano in the count 1-2. Pavano then threw the most controversial pitch of the evening. Pavano’s two-seam or sinking fastball went whistling toward the inside corner and home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it a ball.
Pavano, manager Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the Twins thought they had strike three. But now the count was 2-2. Pavano then tried a change-up but Berkman merely waited for it and smashed it over the head of Denard Span in center-field for a double to score Posada from first with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Gardenhire then went to the mound, ostensibly to talk to Pavano. But his real reason was to induce Wendelstedt to break up the conference on the mound so Gardenhire could light into him for the missed strike call. Wendelstedt, as is his duty when a manager argues balls and strikes, ended Gardenhire’s evening by dismissing him from the game.
A note about the umpiring: To be fair to Wendelstedt, he did not call inside corner strikes for either team throughout the game. The TBS network pitch tracker showed that time after time during the game. Wendelstedt did, however, give Pavano and Pettitte leeway on the outside corner. 
I doubt this fact is of much consolation for the Twins fans who made up the vast majority of the Target Field record crowd of 42,305.
Play then resumed with a bunt single by Brett Gardner to move Berkman to third. Derek Jeter then scored Berkman with a bloop RBI single to right.
That ended the evening for the Yankees’ former malingering right-hander, Pavano (0-1). He pitched six-plus innings and gave up four runs on 10 hits and a walk and he struck out three.
The Yankees changed their usual approach on hitting Pavano by trying to swing at fastballs early in the count rather than let Pavano use his breaking pitches in deeper counts.
The strategy paid off and Pettitte and the Yankees have now defeated Pavano in two straight ALDS games. Pettitte outdueled Pavano in Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS as the Yankees swept the Twins.
Payback is a b—-, huh, Carl?
The Yankees added an insurance run in the ninth when Curtis Granderson blooped a single into center off Twins closer Matt Capps to plate Gardner from third. It was Granderson’s third hit of the night and he is hitting a robust .500 in the series.
The Yankees bullpen, which has been a pillar of strength for the Yankees in the second half of the season, came through again to shut down the Twins in the final two frames.
Kerry Wood struck out two batters while pitching a perfect eighth and Mariano Rivera  . . .  excuse me  . . .  yawn!  . . .  came in and put the Twins to sleep for the second straight evening with a scoreless ninth aided by a double play off the bat of Delmon Young that Rivera started himself.
Rivera notched his second save of the series and he now has major-league-best 41 career postseason saves.
The Yankees have now defeated the Twins in 11 of their last 13 postseason meetings dating back to 2003 and they also have won an astounding 10 postseason games in a row from this sad lot from Minneapolis. The Twins have also never beaten the Yankees in Minnesota, whether it be the Metrodome or the new Target Field.
Pettitte, making his major-league-best 41st career postseason start, extended his majors-topping postseason innings pitched total to 256. In giving up a sacrifice fly to Danny Valencia in the second inning that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, Pettitte started a streak of 12 batters in a row he retired until Hudson touched him for his home run the sixth.
Their Twins are now in a serious 0-2 hole as the best-of-five series now shifts to the Bronx for Game 3 on Saturday. Of the 19 teams that have gained a 2-0 lead in the ALDS, 15 of them have won the series (79%).
In order to change the luck of the Twins on Thursday, Gardenhire reportedly burned everything he wore in Wednesday’s game  — even his underwear and shoes. I hope he doesn’t burn down Target Field to break this wicked playoff curse the Yankees hold on the Twins.
What can we call it? Hmmm! How about Curse of the Pav-bino?
The Yankees, who now sit in the driver’s seat in this ALDS, will look to put the pedal to metal on Saturday with the keys going to right-hander Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA). Hughes did not face the Twins this season and he has a 1-1 mark with a 5.25 ERA in postseason play. But that work was all as a reliever.
The Twins will look to break the Curse of the Pav-bino behind left-hander Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA). Duensing did not become a starter for the Twins until July 23. He was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts. He is 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA in the postseason and he was the losing pitcher in Game 1 of the 2009 of the ALDS against the Yankees.
While they are in the Northeast, maybe the Twins can seek out Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell to whip up a satanic ritual to rid them of this curse. It could not hurt.
Game-time will be 8:30 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by TBS.

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.