Curtis was just one of a few heroes for the Yanks in this one, but I can never turn down an opportunity to make an allusion to Arrested Development. I love the Twin Cities, I do, but I just don’t get nervous when the Yankees play the Twins. I’m not being cavalier or overly confident. It’s just that the Yankees seem to have had the Twinkies’ number since the early aughts. The Yankees are Ron Gardenhire’s daddy, I guess.
The Yankees dominated this one from the outset, holding the Twins at bay until 3 “garbage time” runs in the 8th and 9th. Let’s have a look.
Watch out Orel Hershiser
All that Andy Pettitte has done since coming off the DL is toss 11 scoreless innings over 2 starts. NBD. The really wild part? He hasn’t even looked that good yet.
Andy got off to an inauspicious start against the Twins tonight, allowing back to back singles to Denard Span and Ben Revere after his teammates staked him to a 3-0 lead in the Top of the 1st. After getting Joe Mauer to line out, Pettitte walked the dangerous Josh Willingham to load the bases. “Oh boy,” I thought, “here we go. It’s cold and Andy is old and this is going to be a reality check.” Reality check indeed. Pettitte responded to the walk (and my lack of faith) by striking out Justin Morneau looking and getting Ryan Doumit to ground out to short to end the inning. It wasn’t pretty, but he found a way. That, to me, is some vintage Andy Pettitte.
Over his 6 innings of work, Andy struggled more often than not, only retiring the side in order in the 2nd and the 6th. You know what though? Didn’t matter all that much, because Pettitte made the exact pitch he needed to make every time he seemed to be on the brink of giving in. With 1st and 3rd and 1 out in the Bottom of the 3rd, Pettitte got Willingham to bounce into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play. Similarly, in the 5th inning, Pettitte was able to induce a grounder to double up the speedy duo of Denard Span and Ben Revere. Twin killings for everyone! (Sorry, sorry)
Andy Pettitte also got some help from his defense in the 4th inning, in the form of a great play by both Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin. With 1 out in the frame, Ryan Doumit doubled to deep right. After retiring Trevor Plouffe on a shallow fly ball to Ichiro in RF, Pettitte was unable to snag a grounder up the middle from Jamey Carroll. Granderson charged as Doumit came chugging around 3rd and threw a one-hop strike to Martin who deftly swung around to apply the tag and nail the runner to end the inning. I’m a sucker for plays at the plate, especially if we can avoid a collision. There’s no prettier play in baseball than the bang-bang sweep tag at home on a throw from the outfield. What a treat!
Final line for Immortal Andy: 6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 88 pitches. If he’s going to keep getting sharper, fantastic. If not, then just more of this, please.
This park can’t hold me!
“Too many home runs! Yankee Stadium is a band box! Jet streams! It’ll never fly on the road!” And so on, and so on. Well, maybe the Yankees brought the jet streams out to the Midwest with them because man, were they mashing tonight. Isn’t Target Field supposed to play large? Isn’t the ball supposed to stop carrying in the Twin Cities once the temperature drops? Tell that to Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez.
The Yankees wasted no time making themselves at home in this one. In the 1st inning after a walk to Jeter, newly minted AL Player of the (Last) Week Ichiro Suzuki got things going with a 2B that was smoked high off the wall in right field. A-Rod was retired on a fly ball to right field, but Robbie Cano was able to drive in the first run of the game on a grounder to SS. Enter Nick Swisher. Exit baseball. With two outs, Swisher crushed the Liam Hendriks offering off the facing of the upper deck in RF for a 2-run shot to put the Yankees up 3-0. Seemingly an effective way to get to the young Australian righty, the rest of the lineup got to work.
Hendriks actually flashed some pretty good stuff at times after the 1st inning, settling in nicely until the 4th. After striking out Swisher looking to begin the inning, Hendriks showed Granderson a pair of curveballs before trying to surprise him with a fastball on the inner half. Curtis Status: Not surprised. Granderson one-upped Swisher with his blast, a solo shot that traveled approximately 437ft. into the upper deck in right field. It was Curtis’ 40th HR of the year, and put the Yankees ahead 4-0.
Credit to Henriks again for settling down after giving up a mammoth blast, as he made it into the 7th inning without allowing any further damage. That is, however, where the run of success would end. Raul Ibanez led off the inning with the Yankees’ third monster home run of the game, a solo shot down the RF line to increase the lead to 5-0. Two batters later, Eric Chavez joined the party with an opposite field solo shot that barely cleared the fence and only cleared Willingham’s glove by a pork chop on a stick’s length. 6-0 Yankees, and the end of the night for Hendriks.
Other than the excitement of the long ball, it was good to see the offense roll along pretty effortlessly. Ibanez built on Saturday’s special day and turned in a 2-for-4, living up to his reputation as a feast or famine streak guy, and Eric Chavez went 3-for-4 in his attempt to get off the snide.
Tidbits and Other Fun
- Derek Jeter went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 18 games. He came into this game hitting .339 in the second half. Yeah.
- Curtis Granderson’s 40th HR put him in pretty elite company as a Yankee. With 41 dingers last year, Curtis joins Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, and, um, Jason Giambi as the only Yankees to hit 40+ HR in back-to-back seasons. If Curtis wear a lucky golden thong, let’s hope he sticks with it for the next month or so.
- The 2B that Andy Pettitte allowed to Ryan Doumit in the Bottom of the 4th was his first XBH allowed since coming off the DL. Doumit was the 36th batter he faced.
- Nick Swisher is playing an impressive 1B in Teixeira’s absence. Stretches, picks, you name it. What an asset to have that depth.
- Joba Chamberlain celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday and continued the party by pitching a 1-2-3 7th.
- Cory Wade may have thrown his last inning as a Yankee tonight and unsurprisingly allowed a home run. Wade may be a roster casualty when Gardner returns or David Aardsma is activated.
- Josh Willingham was removed from the game after his leaping attempt on Eric Chavez’s HR in the 7th inning and it was announced that he suffered a shoulder injury. Makes the Yanks’ lives a lot easier if he needs to sit out the rest of the series.
With this win and Baltimore’s loss to Toronto in the nightcap of their double header, the Yankees now hold a 1 1/2 game lead in the AL East. This is the first time the Yankees have been separated from the Orioles by more than 1 game since September 2. For those who count the Sudden Death Golden Goal All the Beans Wild Card Duel as the playoffs, the Yankees magic number is 4. Still a long haul for the division crown though.
Tomorrow’s matchup pits Phil Hughes (16-12, 4.05 ERA) against Esmerling Vazquez (0-2, 6.75 ERA). It would be ideal to see Phil bounce back from a lackadaisical outing against the Blue Jays last time out, as we’re starting to run out of time for working out the kinks here. In other news, Esmerling is a phenomenal name, but I hope that the home run barrage carries over. Enjoy folks.