Nick Blackburn had the Yankees' number through the first five innings of Game 2 of the ALDS. Prior to the 6th inning, the Yankees had managed but one hit, a Robinson Cano single. Blackburn had the Yankees off balance for much of his outing, inducing a seemingly endless stream of weak pop-ups and soft grounders.
The Yankees finally got to Blackburn in the bottom of the 6th, after falling behind by a run in the top half of the inning. The much-maligned Alex Rodriguez came through once again in this series, singling Derek Jeter home to tie the game. The Yankees would go on to win in extra innings, 4-3, but there was an absurd amount of drama and excitement prior to the favorable final outcome.
Yankee starter A.J. Burnett was almost as effective as Blackburn, turning in a quality start (1 ER in 6 IP) despite walking five men and hitting two batters. That Burnett managed to escape only yielding one run was crucial to the Yankees' chances of taking this game. Additionally, Burnett had great stuff from the get-go, and manager Joe Girardi's decision to start Jose Molina at catcher may have ended up being a good call, although Burnett needs to cut down on the number of baserunnners going forward.
In any event, Burnett left the game in a 1-1 tie, turning the ball over to Joba Chamberlain. Joba got two quick outs and then gave up a hit to Joe Mauer, which led Girardi to bring Phil Coke in to face lefty Jason Kubel. Much to my chagrin, Coke actually struck Kubel out, ending the threat. My boy Phil Hughes came on in the 8th, and also registered two quick outs (do we sense a theme here?) before getting himself into trouble by walking Carlos Gomez. Brendan Harris and Nick Punto (by the way, Nick Punto, who has no business even wearing a Major League Baseball uniform, has somehow managed to get a hit or a walk every single at-bat in this series) followed with base hits, breaking the tie. Girardi decided to go to Mariano Rivera, and, as amazing as Mo is, he allowed an insurance run in the top of the 8th. The Yankees went meekly in the 8th, and the Twins appeared to be set up come the bottom of the 9th, bringing closer Joe Nathan to the mound.
Despite the ridiculous number of walk-off wins the Yankees managed to record this year, and the fact that the Yankees have hit Nathan in the past, I did not have particularly high hopes entering the bottom of the 9th. It just seemed like time was finally going to catch up to the team. Thankfully, I was way wrong, as Mark Teixeira led the inning off with his first base hit of the series, bringing A-Rod to the plate with a chance to tie the game. And what do you know, he did just that. Alex Rodriguez hit a towering two-run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off elite Minnesota closer Joe Nathan to tie the second game of the ALDS. Man, it felt good to type that.
The game would go on to extra innings, with both teams mounting charges a handful of times before rallies were ultimately snuffed out. The Yankees came close in the bottom of the 10th; unfortunately Orlando Cabrera had Johnny Damon played perfectly on a liner up the middle and doubled Brett Gardner off of third base. The Twins got royally screwed on a huge missed call by left field umpire Phil Cuzzi in the top of the 11th, as Joe Mauer clearly hit a ground-rule double that was called a foul ball. Mauer still wound up getting a single (obviously), but the outcome of that inning may very well have changed if Mauer started on n second base instead of first.
Regardless, the Twins squandered the best chance they'd have all game, as David Robertson incredibly pitched out of a bases loaded, no-out situation without yielding a run. This brought Mark Teixeira up to the plate with no outs in the bottom of the 11th. Teixeira ripped a blast that just cleared the left field wall, marking the Yankees' first walk-off home run in the postseason since the greatest sporting event in the history of mankind. It was also the fourth time the Yankees beat the Twins walk-off style in 2009.
This win was fantastic on many levels: It marks the first time the Yankees have led a Division Series 2-0 since 1999; it was fantastic seeing Teixeira pop his Yankee playoff cherry with two tremendous hits; and it was even better to see A-Rod continue his relaxed approach at the plate, driving in three of the Yankees' four runs. If any Yankee fans still have a problem with Alex Rodriguez at this point, you really need to stop rooting for this team.
The Yankees now travel to Minnesota for Game 3 on Sunday night, and get to face old "friend" Carl Pavano. As I said the other day, the possibility of getting to beat Pavano's brains in is awesome, although the reality is he's actually pitched very well against the Yankees in 2009. In any event, I like the Yankees' chances behind Andy Pettitte, and for all the talk of the Twins playing such great baseball at the Homerdome, I've seen the Yankees win at that piece of crap stadium enough times that I feel very good about my sweep prediction coming to fruition.
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