By Jon Lane
Sorry for the overdue wrap on one of the best games I’ve ever eye-witnessed in my years as a fan and covering baseball. Thanks to the game lasting four hours and 22 minutes, combined with wonderful New York City transit system – 20 minutes waiting for a subway and another hour-plus for the next Long Island Rail Road train, I’m back home amazingly before sunrise. Life of a suburbanite.
Where do I start? David “Houdini” Robertson. (Thank you, Nick Swisher). The youngster earned stars and stripes in Game 2. The planets were aligned on this night. Chris Shearn spoke with Robertson before the game.
Here’s what else came out of a game that’s now No. 1 on Swish’s list. “This is my fifth year in the big leagues and I’ve never played in a better game than this before in my life – ever,” he said. “The inner confidence this team has … it’s a lot of fun to be playing for the Yankees right now.”
Indeed. This was an instant classic, writes Steven Goldman.
? Watching Chuck Meriwether butcher the strike zone was bad enough. Phil Cuzzi then joined Richie Garcia in umpire infamy. Garcia failed to notice Jeffrey Maier swipe a catchable ball from Tony Tarasco in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, which turned an out into Derek Jeter’s home run. Cuzzi, working left field Friday night, somehow didn’t see Joe Mauer’s blooper land a good three or so feet into fair territory and called foul ball. Mauer singled to open the 11th, but would have scored on Jason Kubel’s base hit to give the Twins a one-run lead.
“Next guy got a single. You can figure that out, I think,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on if the correct call would have changed the inning. When asked if MLB needs an extension of instant reply, he replied, “It’s not my call. We had six umpires out there. I think, right, six? Six umpires.”
Crew chief Tim Tschida, in right field for Game 2, was left to pick up the pieces, admitting that yes, we screwed up.
“Afterwards, like any close play, we went in and we looked at it, and it’s a clear indication that an incorrect decision was rendered,” Tschida said. “There’s a guy sitting over in the umpire’s dressing room right now that feels horrible.”
The Twins caught a terrible break with that blown call, and Meriwether was atrocious calling balls and strikes, but the men in blue weren’t at fault for the club leaving 17 runners on base. The Twins proved they had heart by rallying to capture the AL Central by winning an epic of their own Tuesday over the Tigers, but their inability to finish the job against the Yankees is mystifying. Minnesota is 0-9 versus New York in 2009, 2-8 all-time in postseason play and 10-32 in the Bronx since 2000.
? Alex Rodriguez tied the game in the ninth with a two-run bomb off Twins closer Joe Nathan. After going 0 for his last 19 with runners in scoring position in postseason games, A-Rod is 3-for-4 in the series. Not too bad for someone whose playoff failures were the butt of jokes and complaints, and frankly whose season was on the line upon learning he needed hip surgery.
“I feel great, not only with the game but in my life,” Rodriguez said.
? You can stop worrying about Mark Teixeira too. Hitless in his first six at-bats, Teixeira went 2-for-5, including that walk-off home run.
“I really thought it was going to be a double because I hit it with so much top spin,” Teixeira said. “I thought there was no chance it was going to get out. I was running so hard making sure I got two. Then the crowd started going nuts. I figured it was a home run.”
Teixeira and Derek Jeter, ironically the Yankees’ two MVP candidates, were the only regular players to not be the recipient of A.J. Burnett’s congratulatory pie to the face. Once the initial euphoria of Teixeira’s homer wore off, fans stood in anticipation of Burnett’s celebratory practice. They erupted again once whipped cream met Teixeira’s facial features.
“A.J. told me, ‘I finally got you,'” Teixeira said. “So if I was going to get one this season, I’m glad I waited until the postseason. It was fun.”
? Speaking of Burnett, he wasn’t on his ‘A’ game, but he doesn’t receive an ‘F’ either. Making his postseason debut, Burnett held the twins to a run on three hits in six innings with six strikeouts. He also walked five and hit consecutive batters in the fourth.
Pretty? No. Gritty? Yes. Joe Girardi said earlier in the season that he’s more proud of a start in which the pitcher has to grind it out without his best stuff than if he were to toss a complete-game shutout. If Burnett were to fail, it’s not because he can’t handle the pressure.
It’ll be interesting if Girardi sticks with the Burnett-Jose Molina battery if the Yankees get the ALCS. Why wouldn’t he? Jorge Posada came off the bench to go 1-for-3. He also may elect to take Cervelli to either Boston or Anaheim (the Angels are also poised for a sweep). The kid has shown he’s got game too.
“Cervy’s a great player, a young kid who understands the game,” Swisher said. “Molina started and Sato (Posada) came in – Sato got three at-bats and didn’t even start the game. See? Skip knew what he was doing leaving Cervy on the roster.”
Okay, time for bed. I won’t be in Minnesota, but stay with YESNetwork.com for complete coverage of Game 3 Sunday night from our friends at River Ave. Blues. And while you’re at it, introduce yourself to My YES, our brand new social networking community.