It was another Saturday night, I didn’t have nobody. I had some money, because I had just gotten paid. How I wished I had something to do – and then I went on Twitter and saw that David Wright of the New York Mets had crushed a grand slam homer for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, putting them ahead 6-2 in front of Team Italy.
I flipped on the game.
OK. So the guy from the other New York team hit a bomb. To me, the World Baseball Classic was still meaningless; a pointless, glorified exhibition which simply takes players away from Spring Training, the players competing for seemingly nothing. Japan won the two previous WBCs (2006, ’09), and my philosophy remained,
“The World Baseball Classic is a joke. Spoiler alert: Japan will win it again, its players will come to the USA/MLB…and suck for their entire careers.”
Daisuke Matsuzaka is my case in point.
But as I continued to watch Teams USA’s game vs. Team Italy, my feelings slowly changed. By the end of the night, I was actually interested in the WBC, a position I never imagined I’d be in when the tournament commenced. A couple of storylines have put me over the top.
First off, Robinson Cano has been an absolute beast in the WBC, playing for his homeland, the Dominican Republic. The studly second baseman was named MVP of Pool C, cracking four extra base hits (including an opposite-field home run), five RBIs, while batting .600 over the first three games.
The DR went on to advance in the WBC; Cano ready to lead his squad against Wright and Team USA tonight, in fact.
Given the concerns and recent, unexpected injuries the Yankees have suffered (Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson) it’s overly encouraging to see Cano slaughtering the ball the way he’s been in the WBC. Come April 1, if Cano keeps it up, there won’t be much to worry about when he steps into the batter’s box.
There was also a second piece of WBC business that piqued my interest. Italy had a familiar reliever on its roster: my paison, Brian Sweeney. I only say “had” because last night Team Italia was ousted by Puerto Rico, a come-from-behind effort by way of sloppy Italian defense leading to the Azzuri’s downfall.
I was pleasantly surprised – and in a big way, proud – to see my fellow Mercy College alumnus on the hill in front of a worldwide audience and a packed house at the new Miami Marlins ballpark. As most readers of the blog know, I interviewed Sweeney in July, 2010, weeks after he faced the Yankees in the Bronx.
He went on to make several appearances vs. the Bombers over that summer, and got the likes of Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher, and Brett Gardner out. Using his signature changeup which he learned pitching for Mercy, some of the most powerful Yankees didn’t stand a chance against Sweeney.
And during the WBC, Sweeney added some more names to his list of big outs.
In Wright’s first at-bat following his trip to granny’s, Sweeney got the Mets’ third baseman to pop out. He followed suit by walking the Marlins’ own Giancarlo Stanton, Sweeney’s changeup painting the black; barely missing the outside corner for a walk culminating a 13-pitch at-bat. He went on to get catcher Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins) to fly out to left field and first baseman Eric Hosmer (KC Royals) to foul out behind third.
Not a bad night at the office for a Mercy College grad.
Team Italy had two more losing efforts vs. Cano’s Dominicans and Team Puerto Rico – both narrow losses; one-run games. Over the course of those two games, Sweeney struck out Alejandro De Aza (Chicago White Sox) swinging, and got both got Jose Reyes (Toronto Blue Jays) and Hanley Ramirez (LA Dodgers) to fly out.
Unfortunately Sweeney was on the hook for the loss in last night’s elimination game to Puerto Rico, although the decision was more reflective of shoddy defense: particularly on the left side of the infield’s behalf. Italy’s shortstop Anthony Granato was eaten alive on a number of ground balls, and third baseman Alex Liddi didn’t curb the problems, missing an easy out by coming off the bag at third on a force play.
Yet Sweeney’s participation in the WBC wasn’t what made me entirely proud. After the loss, the 38-year-old journeyman right-hander stood on the top step of the dugout and tipped his cap to the fans and to Team Puerto Rico – a class act, all the way through. Despite the ousting, he showed great sportsmanship and a graceful attitude.
That’s a Mercy College guy for you.
My hope now is that he catches on with a team this spring. Hopefully for him, it’s the Seattle Mariners, seeing as how he told me in the interview he always wanted to pay dividends for them. They gave him a chance in the show; I suppose he feels he owes them.
As for the rest of the WBC, my interest has been sparked. Next time there’s a night within the next couple of weeks before Opening Day and I don’t have nobody – regardless of whether or not I just got paid, I’ll have something to do: watch the WBC.
Break out the brooms, the Swiffer Wet Jets, the dust pans, the mops…whatever cleaning device you prefer. Tonight, the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins by a score of 6-1, completing a three-game sweep in the American League Division Series.
The Yanks will now vie for the A.L. pennant against either The Texas Rangers or Tampa Bay Rays.
The story of the night offensively was the work of Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher. Already up 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Thames blasted an opposite-field home run, a shot that landed in the right field stands. It marked Thames’s first career postseason home run and it put the Yanks up 4-0.
Swisher followed suit in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run, his second career postseason round-tripper, striking the proverbial nail in the Twins’ coffin.
Jorge Posada started the Yankee scoring in the bottom of the second with an RBI single, knocking in Robinson Cano. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single of his own in the bottom of the third to score Swisher, giving the Yankees their early 2-0 lead.
After Thames’s home run in the fourth, Curtis Granderson scored on a sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner, after stealing second and reaching third on an error by catcher Joe Mauer.
Phil Hughes made his first postseason start for the Yankees and he looked as sharp as a brilliantly crafted katana. Hughes tossed seven strong innings of work and gave up no runs on four hits. The 24 year-old right-hander only issued one walk and struck out six batters on his way to a win.
The only blemish on the Yankee pitching was an RBI single off the bat of Orlando Hudson, which plated Danny Valencia in the top of the eighth off reliever Kerry Wood. With one out and the bases loaded, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi summoned Boone Logan and David Robertson to record the last two outs.
Logan and Robertson delivered, escaping the frame without another run allowed.
Mariano Rivera closed it down in a non-save situation, tossing a perfect ninth inning to secure an ALDS victory.
It should comes as no surprise to me that the Yankees won this series. I’ll admit, I was somewhat skeptical coming into this year’s ALDS, simply because of what the Twins had going for them.
I stated in the preview that they had a tremendous record at home (53-28 at home, which I believe was the best in the A.L.). With home field advantage, I never would have guessed that the Yankees could take two from the Twins at Target Field.
In addition to home field advantage, I thought the Twins may have been able to handle Andy Pettitte, being that he had not won a game since July 8. However, Pettitte came up huge in Game Two and was arguably more effective than CC Sabathia in Game One.
I also made mention of Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer, all of whom I imagined would come up with timely hits in big spots.
Not even close.
Aside from Cuddyer’s Game One, two-run homer, they were ghosts.
I just do not have an answer. The Twins must be perplexed and probably frustrated. I guess they just weren’t meant to beat the Yankees. It’s not as though they have a bad team, either; I think that’s why manager Ron Gardenhire is so confused.
This season, Minnesota was able to beat out a competitive Chicago White Sox team and a fairly resilient team in the Detroit Tigers (at least up until late July-early August). They captured the A.L. Central for the second consecutive year and just could not maintain their bearings when the calendar reached October.
I thought that maybe the Twins could quell their postseason demons, meaning the Yankees. In my head I drew a comparison between the Twins this year and the Yankees last year. The Bombers just could not beat the Angels in the past, as they had been eliminated by them twice (2002, ’05).
Could the Twins, with a number of things finally working in their favor, beat the Yankees in the playoffs, the way the Yankees finally beat the Angels in the playoffs last year? Could the Twins, who just opened their new Stadium, win it all in their first season in their new Stadium the way the Yanks had last year?
No. It could not be done. The Twins fell victim to the almighty Yankees for the fourth time.
A clean sweep.
Inside the Series
· The Twins were .111 in the ALDS with runners in scoring position. The Yankees hit .360 with men on second and third.
· Curtis Granderson hit .455 in the ALDS, his first postseason series in pinstripes.
· The Twins have now lost 12 consecutive postseason games. Nine of those 12 losses have come at the hands of the Bronx Bombers.
· With his RBI single in the second inning tonight, Jorge Posada passed Mickey Mantle for ninth place on the postseason RBIs list.
· Capturing the win in Game Two, Andy Pettitte now has 19 career postseason wins. No other pitcher in baseball history has as many.
· Before Game Two of the ALDS, Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire burned his uniform from Game One. Well. That didn’t work.
· Heading into Game Two, lefties were hitting .292 off Carl Pavano. Lance Berkman hit a home run and a double off Pavano…from the left side of the plate.
· Mariano Rivera now has 41 postseason saves and 600 all-time in his career (including the playoffs). Brad Lidge is second on baseball’s all-time postseason saves list with 16.
· Rivera now also owns an all-time postseason ERA of 0.72.
· The Yankees outscored the Twins 17-7 in the ALDS.
· Phil Hughes picked up his first postseason win as a starter. He previously won a playoff game against the Cleveland Indians in 2007, coming on in relief of an injured Roger Clemens.
· All-Star catcher and 2009 A.L. MVP Joe Mauer registered no RBIs in the ALDS.
· Mark Teixeira led the Yankees in RBIs with five for the ALDS. Granderson knocked in four runs and Posada drove in three.
· The Yankees became the seventh MLB franchise to win a World Series and then open the next postseason series with a sweep. The last time the Yankees accomplished the feat was 1998-1999, when they beat the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.
Once again, the ALCS will start on Friday Oct. 15 in either Tampa Bay or Texas, pending the outcome of the Rays vs. Rangers series. According to reports, Girardi will meet with his coaching staff to discuss the pitching rotation for the ALCS, needing to decide whether or not to utilize a three or four man rotation.
It all depends on A.J. Burnett’s focus and confidence level.
But that’s another story for later on in the week. Right now, the Yankees can rest knowing they will once again compete for a chance at their 40th American League pennant; they have another chance to once again represent the A.L. in the World Series.
Rays? Rangers? We’ll soon find out. As for tonight…
I cannot say anything to the Twins. Residents of St. Paul and Minneapolis are probably shaking their heads right now, wondering what they need to do to beat the Yankees; what can they do to finally get over the postseason hump.
And maybe, just maybe…Twins fans are wondering if there’s even an answer.
I certainly do not have one.
Wow. WOW. That’s pretty much all I can say. Just another instance in my life when I am speechless.
Game two of the ALDS was one of the craziest games I have ever witnessed and that is definitely saying something as a lifelong baseball fan. It was most likely the craziest (Yankee) playoff game since game seven of the 2003 ALCS.
Tonight was one of those games where I just kept saying to myself, “I can’t believe what I just saw.” I said it several times during the game.
A lot of craziness, but the Yankees won, 4-3 in 11th outrageous innings. One hell of a win, for sure!
There’s so much I can say about this game, but I’m going to start with Alex Rodriguez.
In one of the biggest at-bats of his career and the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankee slugger delivered a mammoth, game-tying, two-run homer to knot the game at three.
I’m sure not many people expected it, but like I said on Wednesday, I think A-Rod learned the Heimlich maneuver. It was a pressure situation and he did not choke! He did what he was brought here to do–hit big time homers in pressurized, late-game situations. And he did not disappoint tonight.
You can look at some of his other big time homers as a member of the Yankees. The walk-off grand slam vs. Baltimore on April 7, 2007, the walk-off tater to beat Cleveland on April 19, 2007, but this was different.
Tonight was postseason. And against Joe Nathan, a closer who slammed the door 47 times during the regular season. And that home run…was a bomb!
Rodriguez has been excellent these last two games, driving in five runs and going 4-for-8. That’s better than we have probably ever seen him in the playoffs, certainly the best we’ve seen him since before they blew it in 2004 (I still don’t want to talk about that!)
“When I came back in May I felt I was off to a new start and it was great to have Mark Teixeira there,” Rodriguez said to the press after the game.
“It just felt really good, we needed it, and nothing’s changed. This is the way we have been playing all year. It was a lot of fun and I am doing the best I can.”
Rodriguez also drove in the Yankees’ first run in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single to score Derek Jeter, answering the Twins’ run they posted in the top of the frame.
Alongside Rodriguez with some big hits tonight was Mark Teixeira.
Not only did “Big Tex” smash the game-winning, walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, he kept the Yankees alive in the ninth with a double to set up A-Rod’s glorious homer.
Without Teixeira, the Yankees would obviously be going to Minnesota with the series tied 1-1, so it’s safe to say he did his job tonight. At the beginning of the season, I heard some fans say Teixeira has never had a big at-bat in his life.
Well he answered those fans, coming up big time tonight in a clutch situation.
Now onto A.J. Burnett, who was pitching in his first postseason game of his career. I have to say, he looked a little off tonight, but still managed to turn in an acceptable outing and a quality start.
The lanky right-hander went six innings, giving up an earned run on only three hits. The walks were a little much, he walked five, but he also struck out six. Burnett’s breaking ball and fastball both looked great tonight, hopefully a sign of good things to come from him.
I also have to hand it to reliever David Robertson. The young man out of Alabama was “Harry Houdini” tonight, getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the 11th. He got the win and deserved it. An awesome showing from him and most of the bullpen tonight.
Now that I’ve examined the good of this game (and it was a good…great game) I have to look at the bad.
By all means, the Yankees should have won the game in the 10th. With Brett Gardner on third base and one out, the game was all but over. All Johnny Damon had to do was hit a fly ball anywhere. Left field, right field, center field–it didn’t matter. Gardner was going to score.
Instead Damon lined an old “at ’em” ball right to Nick Punto, who was able to double up Gardner at third base. It was a bad play on Gardner’s part, but in all honesty, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
What happened was Gardner thought the ball was tipped off the pitcher’s glove and he thought he could score. But much to the surprise of Gardner, the ball was in the air. So a mistake on Gardner cost the Yanks a win in the 10th, but it didn’t come back to hurt them. No harm, no foul.
Then on the Twins’ part, they shot themselves in the foot in top of the fourth. Carlos Gomez slipped past second base, running on a single from Matt Tolbert. The stumble (or I guess just error in judgment) enabled Nick Swisher to gun him out from right field before Delmon Young–the lead runner–was able to score.
That play was crucial and may have cost the Twins the game. If that run had scored, who knows what could have happened.
Another mistake that might have cost the Twins was the error on right field umpire Phil Cuzzi. Joe Mauer hit a ground-rule double that was ruled a foul ball in the 10th inning. That was a real mistake and I was happy he made it. By all means, the Twins were cheated out of a baserunner.
My overall feeling on game two: dramatic. As my fellow blogger Virginia would say, it was a “drama club win.” Both sides fought and wanted it badly, but in the end it was the Bronx Bombers who came out on top.
Now onto game three on Sunday night.
It will be big-game pitcher Andy Pettitte squaring off against former Yankee Carl Pavano. Now the Yankees have a chance to punish him for all the money they wasted on him. I think it would be so poetically just to beat Pavano to win the series. He was supposed to help bring us a Title, but wound up doing nothing.
It would make complete sense.
Well, I said back on June 7 after the Yankees battled back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays that “they are seriously a group of warriors that do not quit.”
And tonight just proved that point even more, if they didn’t prove it with the 15 walk-off wins they had. Tonight also marked the 11th walk-off postseason win in the Yankees’ history–they have the most postseason walk-off wins all-time from any team.
Well, that does it for tonight. I’ll be back after Sunday’s game for more playoff analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!