After last night's 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of the ALDS, the Yankees are in in the driver's seat (even with tonight's Game 2 against Yankees nemisis, Carl Pavano). Many people questioned how Liriano would be able to handle the pressures of being the Game 1 starter for Minnesota, in Target Field, with all the hype and the pressure that was put onto his shoulders, how would he be able to pitch? That questioned was answered right away, and definitivly speaking through the first five innings where the Yankees couldn't break the 26 year old lefty.
You could see that as the Yankees were extending the counts and Liriano's pitch count continued to rise, the gas for Liriano was running on empty come the 6th inning. No longer were his sliders biting in on the hitters and fastballs rising up high and outside. Through the third time in the order, you started to see the Yankees offense come through by not trying to pull balls and instead, just simply, hitting them where they ain't. A scorching base hit past the diving Cuddyer by Robby Cano helped drive in the first run, then another base hit by Posada cut the lead from what was 3-0, down to 3-2. Then possibly the biggest hit of the entire game which put the "Oh My God, It's Happening Again!" feeling back into the minds of the Twins fans, A 2 run triple by Curtis Granderson off the right center field wall that gave them the momentary 4-3 lead.
In each of the last 4 post season games that the Twins have played the Yankees in, the Twins have held the lead and lost, all 4 games. Combined, the Yankees are 10-2 against the Twins in post season play and undefeated at in Minneapolis, at 6-0. Not to call it a curse that Minnesota fans have to deal with but how would they be able to cope, going to New York, down 2 games to none in a best of five game series? Pretty defeated, like always. But that's not to say the Twins aren't a talented ball club either. Granted, they shut down Justin Morneau their All-star Firstbasemen after issues with Migranes since July but we're still talking about a lethal Minnesota lineup that offers the likes of last year's AL MVP in Catcher, Joe Mauer, Speedy Centerfielder Denard Span, and power sluggers like Delmon Young, Jason Ku-Bell, Micheal Cuddyer and even the elderly, Jim Thome.
The problem with Minnesota isn't their talent but their confidence against the Yankees. The Yankees have the Twins like the Harlem Globetrotters have the Washington Generals. Ok, that may be a bit unfair but the way the Yankees have won against Minnesota, would seem unfair to not think that. Now, granted, it's only Game 1 and I can be a bit pressumptious with the results with Game 2, later tonight at 6 (Same time as tonight's Sportswire with Matt and I on 88.1FM WCWP), but with the way Game 1 played out, confidence for this team to me, is pretty high. Pavano could pitch the game of his life against the Bronx Bombers but as we've seen with Minnesota's bullpen, your bullpen is only as good as the pitches that are selected instead of throwing meatballs over the middle of the plate for Mark Teixeira to eat up for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the almighty 4th meal.
One concern I do have is with Andy Pettitte. Experience in October helps given the track record that Pettitte has gone through with the Yankees in his career but over his last few tuneup starts since returning from Injury, He's pitched 13.1 over 3 starts to a tune of a 6.75 ERA. If Pettitte's injury issues creep up in this game, even with his dominant history against the Twins (8-0 with a 2.54 ERA in his last 9 starts against Minnesota including two Post season starts), can we really trust AJ Burnett to come in the game and shut Minnesota down if Pettitte has to leave, god-forbid in the 3rd or 4th inning?
With all that aside, When game 2 is all said and done, the Yankees will be able to get to Pavano and hopefully go back to New York with a commanding 2 games to none lead. The Twins won't be going back to Minnesota down 2-0 which should give the Yankees plenty of time to prepare for the ALCS against Tampa or Texas.
Start singing the tunes....
Till next time,
I'm Nick Malone