Yanks Start ALDS Right, Winning 7-2

Jeter tattooed a magisterial homer to deep left in the third, A-Rod had a pair of RBI singles, Matsui blew the game open with a two-run blast to center in the fifth, and The Big Guy settled into a superb start as the Yanks got rolling and bested Minnesota 7-2.  Terrific start to the ALDS, just what the Yanks had to do–jump on a game but tired team.

C.C. allowed a lead-off double to Span to start the game, and he went to third on a passed ball from Jorge, but The Big Guy fanned the tough Mauer for the second out, and got Cuddyer on an F8 to escape the early threat.  Jeter naturally led off the game with a single, but was stranded.  C.C. fanned the first two in the second but, after Harris singled, he got help from an excellent diving stop by A-Rod to his right, forcing Harris for the third out and all part of an outstanding day for A-Rod.

The Twins got on the board in the third when Punto led off with a single (although he should have been caught looking on a 2-2 fastball at the knees), Span grounded into a 5-4-3 DP, Cabrera singled, Mauer doubled him to third, and Cuddyer singled in Cabrera, 1-0 Twins.  A passed ball by Jorge on a fastball bouncing off his glove, then his losing the ball and taking his eye off Mauer running from third, scored the second run.  Initially I was mad at Jorge for not catching that but, given his outside setup and dropping a clean fastball, I believe he may have been crossed up on that.  Still, he should have caught it.

But the Yanks responded right away, as is their wont.  Melky the Once-Again Clutch got an infield single, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored with Jeter on The Captain’s huge and clutch blast to left, 2-2.  I was picking up my daughter at soccer practice and, as I played catch with my son (who has a very good arm, by the way), Frank the Sage texted “Oh Captain My Captain!”  Since I knew it was good but was out of viewing range, I had to find out how good.  Seeing the replay was necessary to do justice to the first playoff home run in the new Stadium–way deep to left.  The Captain turned hard and fast on that one for his 18th post-season homer, tying Yankee greats Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson.

After The Big Guy worked a 12-pitch 1-2-3 in the fourth, the Yanks grabbed the lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way.  With one out, Jorge singled, Cano forced him, and Swish smacked a double into the left field corner, scoring Cano on an aggressive call by Thomson, which I liked.  He banked on the Twins’ not putting together a good relay, and they did not.  Young made a nice throw to Cabrera, but he in turn threw off the mark to home, for a good throw would have had Cano.

The Big Guy allowed a two-out single in the fifth to Cabrera, who then stole second, but C.C. again set down the dangerous Mauer on a nice 4-3, with Cano going into the hole on a well-placed but slowly hit grounder.  The Yanks promptly blew it open in the bottom of the fifth when Jeter walked and was thankfully on JD’s hot grounder to first, for it kept him out of a sure DP.  Teixeira chased the first pitch from Duensing, popping out to second for the second out, but A-Rod delivered with maybe the biggest hit of the game, a hard two-out single to left to score The Captain and extend the lead to 4-2.  Matsui followed with a long drive to center, probably wind-aided but fine with me, 6-2 Yankees.  I love Matsui’s clutch play, but the real key to the fifth was A-Rod’s hit, which did so many things.  It was the second two-out RBI hit the Yanks had at that point.  It lifted the weight of playoff struggles off A-Rod’s back.  It put the Twins, who briefly led, into a hole.  It extended the inning through clutch hitting to get to a splendid clutch hitter in Matsui.  It clearly looked like it relaxed A-Rod.  Huge, huge hit.

C.C. worked a 1-2-3 in the sixth, then punched out Harris to start the seventh.  But he then nailed Tolbert on the hands with a 1-2 95 mph fastball, not what he wanted to do there, then allowed a single to Punto.  A wild pitch gave them second and third, but C.C. got Span to fly out to right, with Swish making a strong throw home to hold the runner.  C.C. exited for Hughes and got a big standing ovation, which TBS typically screwed up by showing multiple replays of Swish’s fine throw instead of waiting on that and showing a fine moment for The Big Guy, who shook off his own playoff doldrums with a gem last night–6 2/3, 8 hits, two runs one earned, no walks, and 8 K’s on 113 pitches/71 strikes.  Hughes engaged in a lengthy tussle with that stubborn rat Cabrera before striking him out with a 95-mph pea at the knees on the tenth pitch.

The Yanks added an important insurance run in the seventh.  Jeter walked, JD reached on a botched force, but Teixeira scalded a hot one-hopper to third, where Tolbert started a fine 5-4-3.  Teixeira went 0-4 but smacked the ball hard twice; he will be fine.  A-Rod picked him up by lacing one off the wall in right, plating The Captain, 7-2 Yanks.

Mauer started the eighth with a single off Hughes on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, but Hughes fanned Cuddyer then exited for Coke to face Kubel, and Coke missed the outside spot with his first pitch, but got bailed out when Teixeira went to his knees to snare that seed for the second out.  Even though he struggled a bit at the plate, Teixeira unsurprisingly contributed in the field; great player.  Joba entered for the righty Young, and got him on a 6-4 force on just two pitches.  I didn’t like the decision to use Mariano last night.  Mike was more upset than I, and Frank the Sage less so.  This morning, Mike and I texted as I wrote this that Girardi surely knew they all needed work and, with the long series providing a day off between Games 1 and 2, it was fine.  It was just that Mariano needed 23 pitches to get through it, which he eventually did, and I personally would have used Joba to wrap it up.  But on the flip side, Coke threw all of one pitch, and Joba two.  All hands will be on deck again Friday night, and terrific work by the bullpen–2 1/2 IP, 2 hits, no runs, a walk, and 4 K’s–to follow up on The Big Guy’s fine start.

[Edit:  There is another aspect to this that I doubt will be confirmed, but I thought about it last night before heading off for 9 good hours of sleep, after getting five in the two nights before combined.  I cannot help but wonder if Girardi was showing off his bullpen a bit last night–using them for particular match-ups, sure, maybe in a way showing his hand because it is such a good one.  There was a certain quality to using Hughes, Coke, Joba, and Mariano that almost said out loud, “I DARE you to hit these guys.” I could be completely wrong, but something tells me that crossed at least one mind among the Yankees coaches.]

The Yanks hit in the clutch, going 3-8, scoring five runs with two outs, and stranding just five.  Jeter was 2-2 with the homer, 2 walks, and 3 runs.  A-Rod was 2-4 with the 2 big RBI singles.  As The Sage and I have discussed at length lately, a hot-hitting A-Rod will be death to opponents.  Matsui’s two-run homer was big, as was Swish’s go-ahead (actually game-winning) RBI double.  JD, Melky, and Jorge added singles.  The two teams get back at it tomorrow night, with A.J. taking the hill against Blackburn.  Apparently, Gardenhire did not want to throw PaVoldemort to the wolves.  Don’t forget, I will open the Digital Living Room tomorrow, although I won’t be home until about 6:20.  I have a meeting an hour before the game, but will get home a.s.a.p.

No better way to start the ALDS.  Well done, men.

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 9:34 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. my feeling is that the bullpen hadn’t worked since sunday and if those guys-even mariano hadn’t pitched then they wouldn’t be out on the mound from sunday till friday..;. so it makes sense. i generally am the first to distrust girardi’s penchant for over managing and at the time last night MANY people in my section were screaming that he was doing just that… but i guess we should just trust our manager–so i will– unless he calls for cancer ( bunt)

  2. Well done is right! It was a great effort all around. Let’s just hope the rest of the playoffs works just as smoothly!

  3. Lisa! What’s happening? How is school treating you? I myself have been busy writing, reading, and teaching–no let-up, except for family and the Yankees lately. Great game and team effort.

  4. I know where you’re coming from, Mike. I too was skeptical, but other than the love of the bunt, Girardi is a very solid manager with good instincts. I like that he knows when to show some fire but, on the whole, has played it cool.

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