As much as I value baseball’s history, from landmark moments such as Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier all the way down to tacky embarassments such as the White Sox’s short pants and Ten-Cent Beer Night, I’m glad the Yankees have played their last game at Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. It’s not that the Yankees didn’t do well there, they finished with a 77-64 (.546) record in the dome and went 4-0 there in the playoffs. It’s not that the place was devoid of history; it hosted two World Series Game Sevens, including the legendary extra-inning Game 7 in 1991, as well as an ALCS, three ALDS, an All-Star Game, Dave Winfield’s 3,000th hit, all of Kirby Puckett’s Hall of Fame career, three Cy Young seasons (by Johan Santana and Frank Viola), and a pair of Rookie of the Year campaigns (Chuck Knoblauch and, uh, Marty Cordova). The problem wasn’t what took place there, it was the place itself. Baseball simply wasn’t meant to be played indoors, on artificial surface, under a baseball-colored roof that disguised fly balls, in front of huge air conditioning vents that mysteriously blew harder when the home team was batting, with a oversized Hefty bag for an outfield wall.
Next year, the Twins will be playing outdoors, on grass, in an actual ballpark rather than a multi-purpose dome. Had that been the case on Thursday, the game would have taken place on a lovely, warm, sunny afternoon. Instead it took place inside under gloomy artificial light. Not that it cast much of a gloom over the Yankees dominance of the Twins.
With Chien-Ming Wang on the disabled list, Joe Girardi tabbed Alfredo Aceves to start on Thursday, but saddled him with a 65-pitch limit that gave him no room for error. Unfortunately, error showed up in the second, when Jason Kubel led off with a homer to dead center and throwing errors by Aceves himself and Cody Ransom, starting at third base, plated a subsequent walk to Mike Cuddyer. Aceves got into trouble again in the fourth when Cuddyer connected for a one-out double which was followed by a Brian Buscher single. Aceves then hit Mike Redmond with pitch number 65, putting him at his limit and handing a bases-loaded situation over to the team’s middle relievers.
Girardi called on rookie David Robertson to get out of Aceves’s jam despite the fact that Robertson has the highest walk rate of any of the men in the Yankee pen. Robertson got the second out by striking out Nick Punto with a 3-2 fastball, but then walked Denard Span and the woeful Matt Tolbert to force in a pair of runs before getting Joe Mauer to groundout on a curveball.
Fortunately, the Yankees had already scored five runs off Nelson Liriano by then, the first two of which came without the benefit of a hit in the second inning. That frame began with a walk and a steal by Alex Rodriguez, a pitch that hit Jorge Posada’s foot, an error by Tolbert that loaded the bases, a walk to Ransom, and a RBI groundout by Brett Gardner. Derek Jeter then drove in the third run with the Yankees’ first hit of the game.
With the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead in the fifth, Mark Teixeira, who set a personal record with his 95th homerless at-bat in the third, broke the streak with a solo shot to left. Robertson then returned to strikeout Justin Morneau, but after a walk to Jason Kubel, Girardi got fed up and called on Jonathan Albaladejo who combined with the Phils and Mariano Rivera to shut the Twins out the rest of the way to preserve the 6-4 win.
The win completed the Yankees’ dominance of the Twins this season. After winning four games against them in May by a total of just five runs, they outscored them 20-9 in these three games and never trailed in Thursday’s finale, sweeping the season series in the process. I didn’t much like the Metrodome, but it gave the Yankees a very fond farewell.