Tied at two in the top of the seventh inning of tonight’s game, Minnesota Twins’ starter Carl Pavano pumped a 91mph fastball right over the plate to Yankees’ designated hitter Lance Berkman on a 1-2 count. Pavano took a few steps off the mound, expecting home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt to ring Berkman up.
No such luck.
The pitch was called a ball and then, with a 2-2 count, Berkman doubled in Jorge Posada, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. New York added two more runs after the botched call and went on to win the game 5-2 and take a two games-to-none lead over the Twins in American League Division Series.
“It was a tough pitch,” Berkman told the media after the game.
“I thought it was in and off the plate. The umpire was not giving much inside all night and he was pretty consistent with that. I really thought it was in, that’s why I didn’t swing.”
Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire, who is said to have a troubled relationship with Wendelstedt, was run from the game after arguing the call. Despite their rocky history, Gardenhire stated after the game that he spoke with Wendelstedt and they have “cleared the air.”
In addition to his RBI double in the seventh, Berkman broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the fifth with a solo home run, an opposite-field blast that landed in the Twins’ bullpen behind the left-centerfield wall.
Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter contributed to the Yankee scoring, both with RBI singles. Granderson drove in Brett Gardner in the seventh while Jeter padded the Yankees’ lead in the ninth, driving in Berkman.
Alex Rodriguez initially got the Yanks on the board with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, driving in Granderson.
Minnesota only managed two runs off postseason stud Andy Pettitte. In the bottom of the second, Danny Valencia drove in Delmon Young with a sacrifice fly to right field. Later in the sixth Orlando Hudson got around on a hanging, inside curve ball and drove it into the left field stands for a solo home run that knotted the game at two.
Aside from those two hiccups, Pettitte was dealing. He tossed seven strong innings of work and scattered five hits while walking one batter and striking out seven. With the win, Pettitte now has 19 career playoff victories, the most of any pitcher in baseball history.
Backing Pettitte was Kerry Wood, who tossed a perfect eighth inning out of ‘pen. Mariano Rivera nailed it down in the ninth for his 41st career postseason save and second in as many nights. Rivera also lowered his postseason earned run average to 0.73, which is the lowest all-time among any pitcher.
Pettitte and Rivera seem to be a dynamic postseason duo.
The Yankees have now beaten the Twins in eight consecutive postseason games dating back to 2004 and will look for their ninth win in a row on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.
If you want my honest opinion, the blown call really wasn’t fair. Much like Francisco Liriano last night, Carl Pavano was holding his own for the better part of the game. He finished the night with six innings pitched, he scattered 10 hits, gave up four earned runs, only walked one batter, and struck out three.
Pavano didn’t pitch poorly and he caught a bad break on that blown call. That almost personifies his whole career–a bad call; a bad break. I would have rather had Berkman strike out looking and win the game another way, not by a bad call by the home plate ump.
I hate to say it…
But I don’t think the Twins have it in them. I don’t think they will ever be a team built strong enough for the playoffs. They have not won a postseason game since 2004 and the Yankees have just had their number for the better part of the past 10-12 years. When you really think about it:
· The Yankees eliminated them from postseason contention three times in the last seven years, and potentially could eliminate them four times in eight years if they win this year’s ALDS.
· The Yankees threw a perfect game against Minnesota (David Wells; May 17, 1998)
· Under Ron Gardenhire, the Yankees are now 56-18 against the Twins.
· The Twins have been outscored 63-34 in all postseason games since winning Game One of the 2004 ALDS vs. the Yankees.
· The Twins have now lost 11 straight postseason games. Eight of those losses have come at the hands of the Yankees.
· Going back to last season (including the 2009 and ’10 postseasons) the Twins are 2-14 in their last 16 meetings with the Yankees. Both of their wins came this past regular season (May 16 and May 27 this year)
I refuse to say that the Twins are done right now. In 2004, I repeatedly stated that the Red Sox were done after losing three straight American League Championship Series game to the Yankees and…well…everyone knows what happened. They made history, won four in a row, came from behind, won the pennant, embarrassed the Yankees….
Yeah. It was not pretty. In fact it was my worst sports experience.
However, it will be extremely difficult for them to come back and win. The Twins would have to win two games in Yankee Stadium, then come home and win the final game in order to advance. Considering how well CC Sabathia responds in big games and how dominant Pettitte was tonight, things are not looking up for the Twins.
Not saying it can’t be done…but it will be tough for them.
See you after Saturday night’s game.