And so it goes for the Yanks who won another close game against the Twins on Sunday (man, the Twins just don’t win in New York). Johnny Damon hit a solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Bombers a 3-2 win.
It was a tense game, with AJ Burnett and Kevin Slowey tossing up zeros through the first six. Burnett had some good stuff, but he also walked six batters. Slowey was outstanding –efficient and effective. The Yankee hitters made him look like an ace. AJ ran out of steam in the seventh and the Twins took a 2-0 lead. The Yanks tied it in the bottom of the inning, one run coming on a solo shot by Alex Rodriguez.
Some nail biting in the eighth, as the Twins left the bases juiced without scoring a run–Mark Teixeira made an outstanding grab and throw to the plate for the second out. And some more in the bottom of the frame as the Yanks finally chased Slowey. Hideki Matsui came to the plate with the bases full and two out. He faced the lefty Jose Mijares, a chubby, funny-looking guy. Mirajes fell behind 3-0 and then threw a strike. Then Matsui offered at two pitches out of the strike zone and whiffed to end the inning. A poor at-bat.
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth and gave up a lead-off single to Joe Mauer. He spotted a fastball outside for strike one–the same spot he struck Mauer out looking on Saturday–and then got him to foul off a good inside cutter. Don’t go back outside, I yelled from home. Mauer isn’t that dumb. But outside Rivera went. Unfortunately, he didn’t go outside far enough and Mauer, expert hitter that he is, went with the pitch and lined a single to left. But he was stranded at first as Rivera retired the next three batters.
It never gets old watching Rivera apply his trade.
Then things got dramatic in the bottom of the ninth. Nick Swisher walked and was replaced on the bases by Brett Gardner, who was sacrificed to second. Then, in one of the more remarkable plays in recent memory, Franciso Cervelli lined a ball hard up the middle. It first looked as if it would go into center field for a game-winning single. But Mirajes slapped the ball with his glove, behind the back, as he was falling toward third base. The ball was knocked straight back to Mauer who had moved in front of the plate. Cervelli sped up the line, Mauer faked a throw to first and then peaked over his left shoulder where he saw Gardner racing down the line. Mauer put on the brakes and double-backed to the plate.
A foot race. Mauer, who is an enormous man for a catcher (and a tremendous athlete to boot), took five giant steps, dove and nailed Gardner in plenty of time.
It was a risky play by Gardner, but I have to imagine that he would have been safe against anyone else other than Mauer. That was some kind of play, a bona fide web gem. Mauer is a great player. Had the Yankees lost, I was going to title the post, “Speed Kills.” Happily, I shelved that idea when Damon launched a line drive homer off Jesse Crain into the second deck in right field in tenth. Alfredo Aceves got the win.
That’s five straight. Let’s hope it is the start of what will prove to be a winning season. I’m piggish. I want to see them get the sweep. But even if they don’t, we’re all entitled to some pie tonight.
And who doesn’t like pie?