By Jon Lane
ton of money – $423 million to be exact – were spent on people after
the Yankees’ 13-year postseason streak ended last season. The result
was 103 wins, first place in the AL East and home field advantage
throughout the playoffs.
Now begins the quest for the real
payoff: World Championship No. 27. It’s quiet here at Yankee Stadium
right now. The Twins are taking BP and the stands are empty given the 6
p.m. start and the majority of fans about to file out of work. But
Derek Jeter and Reggie Jackson are in the house, Mother Nature spared
us precipitation (but not wind) and this place will rock moments before
CC Sabathia throws the first pitch.
Sabathia is earning $161
million of the $423 million. He delivered, winning 19 games and
emerging as a top AL Cy Young Award contender. Starting tonight,
however, it’s his job to start becoming a champion, to carry the
Yankees on his broad back en route to a championship, to halt a 4-13
postseason skid under Joe Torre from 2004-2007. Casting a large shadow
is Sabathia’s postseason track record, 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five
career starts, the last five runs allowed in 3 2/3 innings in Game 2 of
last year’s Division Series.
“I think maybe just trying to go
out and do too much,” Sabathia said on Tuesdsay. “Trying to go out and
throw shutouts and throw no-hitters and things like that instead of
going out and doing the same things I’ve done during the regular season
which is throwing strikes early in the count.”
Tonight marks a
new beginning not only for Sabathia, but for Alex Rodriguez (you know
his recent postseason past). Keep it here to see what develops.
P.A. announcer Paul Olden is introducing the Twins’ non-starters. Carl
Pavano was greeted to loud boos – and this place is about half full.
Mere minutes from first pitch. CC Sabathia got a nice applause. Also
with the team and in uniform, injured players Chien-Ming Wang and
6:11 p.m. Not a good beginning as Denard
Span laces a leadoff double to left-center. The Twins may be tired, but
that adrenaline can do wonders, especially with the way this team has
played for the past month.
6:18 p.m. Sabathia throws 22
pitches, but keeps the Twins off the board by retiring their No. 3 and
4 hitters and stranding Span at third. Biggest pitch of the inning: a
1-2 punchout of Joe Mauer, a .365 hitter, after Span advanced to third
on a passed ball.
6:31 p.m. Alex Rodriguez’s first at-bat
came with a runner on second and two out. He filed out to right and is
eight for his last 57 postseason at-bats (.140) since 2004.
2-0 Twins on Michael Cuddyer’s two-out RBI single, which preceded an
Orlando Cabrera single and Mauer double, with Mauer scoring on Jose
Posada’s second passed ball. Sabathia has allowed six hits, his pitch
count is at 64 and he’s been was up in the zone. It’s still early but
worry is already setting in, as are the voices of CC’s postseason past.
Brian Duensing, meanwhile, has been razor sharp, holding the Yankees hitless since Derek Jeter’s leadoff single.
Leave it to the captain to set the ship back on course. Jeter’s two-run
blast to left ties the game at two. The homer was Jeter’s 18th in the
postseason (10th in the DS), tying Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for
third on the Yankees’ all-time list. If I were in the old Stadium, I’d
feel the building shake.
7:22 p.m. A-Rod’s second at-bat: Swinging strikeout. Now on an 8-for-58 (.138) skid.
7:30 p.m. Some nuggets from Tyler Kepner, the outstanding beat writer for the New York Times:
Posada is the first catcher in 10 years with two passed balls in a
division series game. (Varitek in 1999); A-Rod has stranded 40
consecutive runners in the postseason.
7:32 p.m. From the
Nobody Talks About It Because He’s Not A-Rod Department: Hideki Matsui
has six hits in his last 29 postseason at-bats (.207) since 2006.
Swishalicious! Nick Swisher’s two-out double scores a hustling Robinson
Cano from first to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. That’s Swish’s second
postseason RBI and third double in this his 11th game.
Breakthrough! A-Rod delivers with an RBI single that scores Jeter and
knocks Duensing out of the game. 8-for-58 slide over. Forty consecutive
stranded runners in the past. Feel the power of Kate Hudson!
8:11 p.m. That
Matsui stat is also in the past. Godzilla crushes one to Monument Park
off Francisco Liriano to make it 6-2 Yankees. It’s a shame about
Liriano. He was one of baseball’s rising young stars before Tommy John
8:16 p.m. Duensing’s line: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 1 WP, 79 pitches/59 strikes.
Since Sabathia allowed two runs on four hits in the third, he’s retired
10 out of his next 11 batters. He’s at 95 pitches and will probably go
another inning. This is what aces do. Even when not at their best, they
find a way to get the job done.
8:47 p.m. Sabathia
departs to a thunderous ovation after retiring Denard Span on a fly
ball to right and throwing 113 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. Phil Huuughes finishes the frame with a strikeout of the pesky Orlando Cabrera following a 10-pitch at-bat.
9:06 p.m. A-Rod tonight: Two hits, 2 RBIs. To quote my colleague
Chris Shearn, “He stinks.” For one night, seriously, A-Rod has the
majority of haterizers off his back.
9:21 p.m. Enter Joba Chamberlain to a rousing ovation with runners on the corners, two out in the top of the eighth and a 7-2 lead. He needed two pitches to retire Delmon Young and end the inning. I’m not going there.