Phil Hughes silences the doubters by coming up big as the Yankees finish off a sweep of the Twins.
At the outset of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and Twins, doubts about the defending world champions centered almost entirely upon their rotation. Quite reasonably so, given that aside from ace CC Sabathia, their starters had put up a 5.91 ERA after the All-Star break, and that Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and every other one of manager Joe Girardi's options had sizable question marks next to their names. But even with Sabathia scuffling in Game One against the Twins, the Yankees were able to pull off a sweep of the series. On Thursday, Pettitte shook off concerns about his health and his stamina to pitch like a man who'd done it all a thousand times before. On Saturday night it was Hughes' turn, and with an electrified Bronx crowd of 50,840 at his back on a clear, crisp October night, he simply stifled the Twins with seven shutout innings while the Yankees offense pounced upon his opposite number, Brian Duensing. After four innings and a 5-0 lead, the outcome was never in doubt; the Yanks had their sweep.
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While neither southpaw was sharp, CC Sabathia got the better of the Twins' left-handed hitters in the Yankees' Game One ALDS victory.
Francisco Liriano was cruising. On a day when Cliff Lee had delivered the goods against Tampa Bay and Roy Halladay had gone down in history with his second no-hitter of the year and just the second in more than a century's worth of posts-season baseball, he was holding his own. Through 5 1/3 Liriano had shut out the Yankees, allowing just two hits and two walks as the Twins rolled to a 3-0 lead in their American League Division Series opener. Working out of jams in the second and third innings, he'd found a groove, retiring 10 straight Yankees, beginning with an emphatic three-pitch strikeout of Alex Rodriguez to end the third. To that point Liriano had whiffed six hitters, four of them going down swinging against sliders. But just as the going-on-27-year-old lefty's pitch count passed 80, all hell broke loose against the heart of the Yankees order.
The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
The 2006 class is a tough one to beat among a strong recent group of rookie classes.
Earlier this week, the folks at Beloit College released their annual MindsetList, a document designed to explain the cultural differences between the incoming class of college freshmen and the older faculty hired to teach them. The idea is to highlight the small and large ways the world has changed in the last 20 years by mentioning things that were true during the life span of oldsters that were never true for those under 20, e.g., the existence of things like a telephone cord, a country called Czechoslovakia, and a baseball commissioner not named Bud. For me, a man who fervently hopes Jamie Moyer comes back next spring to ensure I won’t have to face being older than every major-league ballplayer, this is always a time to reflect on youth and age, both in life and in baseball—especially so this year, since the current Mindset List includes a reference to the term Annus Horribilus, which I happened to use in last year’s BP Annual, but which I now know dates me almost as much as saying “23 Skidoo.”
Two southpaws on very different comeback trails battled it out in the Bronx.
On paper, a series between the Yankees and the Twins — the league's second and third-ranked teams on the most recent Hit List — ought to be a competitive one. The Yanks are of course perennial contenders who've made the postseason 14 times in the past 15 seasons, while the Twins have reached October five times in the past eight years. Yet if there's one sure thing about the two teams over the latter span, it's that the Yankees have pushed the Twins around consistently. From 2002 through 2009, they won 41 of 55 regular season contests between the two teams, and nine out of 11 in the postseason, ending the Twins' title hopes in 2003, 2004, and last October. They've particularly mastered the Twins at home; Friday night's come-from-behind win, fueled by Alex Rodriguez's seventh-inning grand slam, marked their 24th victory in the matchup's last 27 regular-season contests in the Bronx.
The Twins center fielder talks about various subjects, including the struggles he went through to reach the majors.
It took resilience, faith and hard work, but Denard Span has quietly emerged as a stalwart in the Twins’ lineup. Once buried behind Torii Hunter and labeled an underachieving, failed-prospect-in-the-making, the 26-year-old Span is now best described as one of the most underrated center fielders in the American League. A first-round pick in 2002 out of a Tampa high school, Span spent his first full season in the big leagues last year, hitting .311/.392/.415 and leading the circuit in triples while providing plus defense.
While umpires have blown two outfield calls in recent days, reviewing more plays isn't a good idea.
One of the early controversies of 2010 was umpire Cowboy Joe West calling out the Yankees and Red Sox for their incredibly slow pace of play. As these things tend to do, this evolved into a larger discussion on whether games are going too slowly and what things could be done to speed up pace of play without unduly hurrying pitchers and hitters, and thereby decreasing the quality of the game.
In light of that, it seems untoward to talk about a subject that would inherently slow games and even grind them to a halt. However, with Chris Young’s “drop”turning into a four base error/ home run for Jayson Werth on Sunday and Denard Span’s turning the tideof the Twins-Tigers game just three days later, instant replay is once again a topic of discussion.
The Twins play in a small market but they have consistently beaten the large-market White Sox and Twins.
Since its inception in 1994, the American League Central has been the Junior Circuit's weak sister. Its teams have posted cumulative records above .500 only four times, topping the league only once (1996) and trailing it nine times, including six of the last eight. While the division has produced its share of memorable races for the postseason-including Game 163 tiebreakers in each of the past two years-it has rarely played host to two strong teams at the same time. Or even one. In non-strike years, the AL Central champions have averaged just 92.9 wins, compared to 95.7 for the West winners and 98.4 for the East winners, and they've produced just one wild-card winner, compared to three for the West and 11 for the East.
Last night's victors face a tall order in their Bronx confrontation.
The Yankees have been pretty sure they'd be playing in the postseason since not long after the All-Star break. The Twins didn't have much chance of doing so until about two weeks ago, and only found out for sure about 18 hours before the first pitch of the Division Series. That's just one reason of many why this AL Division Series matchup is one of the most lopsided in the 15-year history of the three-tiered playoffs.