"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Goin’ Back to Cali

I knew it. I knew Carl Pavano was going to pitch like that!

In the end it didn’t matter, though  – “it’s okay,” a friend told me afterwards, “that man can’t hurt you any more” – because although Pavano was great tonight, Andy Pettitte was just a bit better; and while the usually great Joe Nathan faltered, the Yankees’ bullpen held the line. So it was a 4-1 win for New York tonight, and the Yanks are headed to the ALCS for the first time since 2004. Of course that’s nothing in the scheme of things, not compared to how long other teams have been waiting, but I’m still thrilled to have really engaging baseball going for at least a little while longer, as it gets colder and darker outside.

Pavano had absolutely everything working tonight, throwing strikes with movement, and provoking some terrible-looking at-bats from the Yankees – there were awkward swings and misses left and right. In the third inning Melky Cabrera removed the specter of a no-hitter with a dinky little infield hit that, had they been playing on real grass, probably would’ve been an out; it was not deeply encouraging. Hideki Matsui’s fifth-inning single and Derek Jeter’s sixth-inning double were more like it, but went nowhere.

Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte was putting on a retro-chic performance. Pettitte has pitched the equivalent of a full healthy season in postseason games, a phantom 16th season; he’s had some bad starts along the way, mixed in with the good, but it’s still deeply reassuring to see him out there – brim pulled low, shadowed eyes staring in over the glove, almost indistinguishable in that pose from the 1996 version. He was perfect through four innings, and very good thereafter.

Still, the Twins scored first, as they did in the first two games of the series, and of course it was Joe Mauer who drove in their lone run, singling home Denard Span in the sixth inning with two outs. But Pettitte recovered to strike out Michael Cuddyer, and the Yankees wasted no time in getting him a lead.

I’m not sure whether Pavano started to tire in the seventh, or whether the Yankees just started seeing his pitches better the third time through the lineup. Either way, first Alex Rodriguez – by now the clear MVP of the series – hit a solid home run to right field to tie the score; one batter later, Jorge Posada added another solo shot. In the space of a couple minutes the Yankees had gone ahead by a run, and despite his excellent performance, that was enough stick Pavano with the L.

Joba Chamberlain took over for Pettitte with one out in the seventh, and got the job done. Phil Hughes then came on for the eighth and did the same, though he had a slightly stickier time. He was greeted by a Nick Punto double, and the Denard Span single that followed could have been the start of a bigger jam – but luckily for the Yankees Punto was not paying attention to his third base coach. He ran well past the bag thinking Span’s hit had reached the outfield, realized his mistake, screeched to a halt and lunged back towards the base; but by then Jeter had corralled the ball (a play I’m not sure he makes last year), spotted Punto, and thrown home to Jorge Posada, who threw to A-Rod, who tagged Punto out at third. An odd play, and a credit to the Yankee infielders, but one made possible by more sloppy baserunning from Minnesota.

I felt bad for Punto; he does hustle like crazy, every time I’ve seen him play, and it’s not his fault that people are always overpraising him as gritty and scrappy.  This was out of character, and he spent the rest of the game looking stricken. But so it goes. Hughes got Orlando Cabrera to fly out, but with Joe Mauer coming up as the go-ahead run, Joe Girardi did the only sane thing: went out to the mound and signaled for Mariano Rivera. (Had this same situation arisen in the seventh inning, I don’t like to think about what might have happened).

Mariano Rivera vs Joe Mauer: best hitter in the league against the best pitcher, and if you can’t get excited about that then I don’t know what to tell you. Mauer’s had an excellent Division Series, providing the lion’s share of the Twins’ offense, and when he wins his MVP it will be thoroughly well deserved. But the result of his last plate appearance tonight was almost anticlimactic, the quintessential Rivera outcome: Mauer’s bat snapped in half just above the handle, and he grounded out to first.

The Yankees tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the ninth, loading the bases as Twins pitchers walked Teixeira, A-Rod, and Matsui in succession, and Joe Nathan then allowed singles to Posada and Cano. Rivera took care of the bottom of the ninth with fairly minimal drama, because that’s what he does, and my god will New York fans miss him when he’s gone, but let’s not think about that right now.

I like the Twins – I like Bert Blyleven, Gardenhire, Mauer, Morneau, Span (natch), Carlos Gomez, Joe Nathan, Pat Neshek, even Little Nicky Punto as the great Batgirl used to call him. And I like their fans, who mostly seem to manage being passionate without being dicks. This series was closer than the 3-0 sweep would suggest, and had they beaten the Yankees I would’ve pulled for them the rest of the way.

I do not feel this way about the Yankees’ next opponent.

Commence worrying about the Angels in 5… 4… 3… 2…

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Emma Span

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1 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 12, 2009 6:28 am

I guess the series "was" closer than the sweep would indicate, but then again, the Yankees did outscore the Twins by an average of 3 runs, which would easily qualify as the greatest season-long run differential of all time. The Yankees pitched better, hit better, fielded better AND, most importantly, managed better. The Twins did nothing close to as well as the Yankees did in this series. It was a dominant performance that I'd love them to repeat in the ALCS.

2 Hank Waddles   ~  Oct 12, 2009 6:38 am

Emma, I'm right there with you on the Mauer-Rivera at-bat. I suppose it would've seemed a bit more epic if had been, say, Nolan Ryan vs. Reggie Jackson, a classic all-or-nothing match up, but for me, this was better. Mo and Joe might be the finest craftsmen of their respective crafts (although Ichiro might object), so this confrontation was one to be savored. And while Reggie might've twisted himself into the ground while striking out or posed dynamically as he launched a homer into the black, the outcome of this at bat couldn't have been more perfect. It's how we'll all remember Rivera, somehow inducing a great hitter to swing at a pitch that hits the bat about two inches above the hands, causing the bat to disintegrate. I only hope that there's a Yankee clubhouse boy saving all the splinters to ship off to Cooperstown someday.

3 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 12, 2009 7:40 am

[2] Mitch Williams actually had a rare pearl on that matchup. His description was Mariano "blew up" the best hitter in the game. Mo is like that precision weapon that is used to destroy the enemy's most lethal assets. He is the trump card.

4 OldYanksFan   ~  Oct 12, 2009 7:59 am

Anyone concerned about this:
NYY 2009 PS Batting: .225 .288 .431 .720
Imagine whats left for 7 other batters if you take out
ARod's and Jeter's 1.500ish OPS.

Have we even seen to the really good pitching yet
(Not counting Pavlov of course)?

5 Yankee Fan in Boston   ~  Oct 12, 2009 8:08 am

The play I keep thinking about was the Swisher to Jeter play at 2nd in the 5th inning.

Jeter's stretch and scoop off of the turf was pretty darned impressive.

6 mehmattski   ~  Oct 12, 2009 8:20 am

I know that the goal is always to win the World Series, but I'm just looking forward to an ALCS of solid baseball. The pitching (Chad Gaudin notwithstanding) is going to be great, and there are great hitters on both teams. I think it's setting up to be a classic.

And for the first time since 2001, we don't have to hear any Red Sox-Yankee-Rivalry storylines in the ALCS!

7 Rich   ~  Oct 12, 2009 8:28 am

Maybe I'm a really terrible person, but I don't feel bad for Punto at all. To the contrary, I was happy that someone who was playing miles over his head was brought crashing down to Earth with a deafening thud when Posada's throw nailed him at 3B.

I think that now that the first round 800 lb. gorilla is off the Yankees' backs, they are ready to roll.

btw, Jeter had an incredible series, in both tangible and intangible ways.

8 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 12, 2009 8:36 am

[4] Seeing that a 3 game sample is meaningless and has no bearing whatsoever on what happens next - no!

Let's see, 105 hours or so until Game 1 starts? This is going to be a LONG week.

9 rbj   ~  Oct 12, 2009 8:56 am

It feels real good to be on to the next round, as the Yankees haven't been in a few years, but really, shouldn't the team be on to the next round, and the round after.

10 Paul   ~  Oct 12, 2009 8:59 am

After seeing Girardi manage in this series, I don't see how anyone could have any remaining doubts about him. He made all of the right calls, even eventually in the Molina nonsense. More importantly, this is a well-managed team that executes well at the little things.

11 Paul   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:02 am

But I could totally see the Yankees losing this ALCS. The Angels seem to be on a mission, and they have the hitting and pitching to compete and the speed to cause havoc. The only clear I edge see for the Yanks is in the bullpen.

12 Rich   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:03 am

Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.

Cashman stellar moves and $60+ million payroll advantage (far more than that over the Twins), would make any manager's job a lot easier.

13 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:03 am

Uhh, hello Mr. Sandomir, if you're still out there, and thanks for taking Chip to task!

Moneyquote: "(I’ve learned that another one of his much-used words, fisted, is part of a Chip Caray drinking game.)" I suppose we might not be the only group of Yankee fans, or baseball fans, to have come up with such a novel idea.

14 Rich   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:04 am

Yeah, the Yankees aren't a mission. Yet another great post.

15 Rich   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:05 am

[13] Chip Caray has me missing Joe Morgan.

16 51cq24   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:10 am

[11] a mission to beat whoever they play next? how terrifying.
the yankees have better everything than the angels (besides speed on the bases), particularly pitching, and not just in the bullpen.

does anyone else think that, depending on how the series goes, cc should just pitch game 4 on short rest? everyone else will be on normal rest because of the schedule, including cc in a possible game 7.

17 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:10 am

just so everybody knows: that was definitely Papelbon who ran onto the field and got arrested in the 9th.
It just wanted to curl up and grovel at Mo's feet.
Terribly undignified, but remarkable how it got to Minneapolis so quickly.

18 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:13 am

[15] Chip Caray had me missing Hawk Harrelson - and that is saying something!

Fortunately, we are free of him now! I wonder how many minutes of Buck-McCarver it will take to kill my feeling of euphoria over not having to listen to Chip anymore?

19 Rich   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:21 am

[16] Unless his first start is really taxing, I would start CC in Game 4 unless they are up 3-0.

20 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:32 am

I was mostly over the Pavano Hate thing earlier this year when he was in Cleveland, and I'm entirely done with it now. He pitched really well, smart (possibly Mauer's doing) and with terrific location, kept people very badly off-balance. Noting Jeter and Pettitte both saying non-robotic nice things and wishing him well in interviews before the game reminded me how much more the fan base 'feels' these hatreds than the players do. I remember someone getting agitated that Jeter was even TALKING to Youkilis last year, with Youk on second base.

I expect a very intense series, too, coming up. I worry about their speed and smarts and I am just fine (hush, Jorge) with Molina catching AJ again. Unless Damon is hurt or rundown, I wouldn't move him from 2nd except against the lefties, but that may become the next talking point with a LONG (ungodly long) week to wait.

21 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 12, 2009 9:50 am

[8] I am not worried about the offense either. Instead, I look at it as only 2 guys hit and they still scored 15 runs in the series.

[16] Two weeks ago, I pushed for CC to go on short rest. Because of the way the series is scheduled, he would only have to do it once, so you don't compromise him in two starts. The bottom line to me is CC on three is better than Gaudin on full rest.

[20] I don't hate Pavano, but I would have hated losing to him.

22 RIYank   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:04 am

Emma, I hope you are feeling a bit more confident than you were in your Bugs and Cranks piece.

I guess I can be persuaded to feel bad for Nicky Punto. It's not his fault that he's been anointed as Eckstein 2.0.

23 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:06 am

[22] Short white guy love is never in short supply. The best example wa Buck Martinez gushing about how Dustin Pedroia turned a groundball double play into only a 4-3 by willing a play to be made. It seems as if Dusty's determination caused him to bobble the grounder and forfeit the extra out, thereby improving his team's chances of winning.

24 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:12 am

[21] I have to correct myself...Matsui and Posada were pretty productive too. Melky, Cano, Swisher, Damon and even Tex were pretty bad.

25 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:22 am
26 ms october   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:29 am

[25] hahaha i can believe that cowchip has been foisted on us due to a lost poker game

[24] i'd put tex and cano in a slightly higher category than than the other 3 though.
i think the bats will pick up some - damon is the most troubling because he looked off to end the season and he looked hopeless and lost at the plate this series - i hope he can snap out of it, but i think he is probably physically off right now

27 The Hawk   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:56 am

The TBS broadcasts of these games were truly awful. It seemed like the director was on drugs.

28 knuckles   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:57 am

I remember a goodly amount of Yankees not being too fond of Pavano's antics while with the club. Moose definitely comes to mind.

29 Raf   ~  Oct 12, 2009 11:19 am

Cashman stellar moves and $60+ million payroll advantage (far more than that over the Twins), would make any manager’s job a lot easier.

They had the same payroll advantage for the past 5 years, and have little to show for it from a postseason angle. That $60M payroll advantage didn't stop Teix from hitting .167-.231-.417, nor did it prevent Burnett from pitching like Blackburn during the regular season (as posted by Cliff; A.J. Burnett: 4.04 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 2.01 K/BB, 33 GS, 21 QS vs. Nick Blackburn: 4.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 2.39 K/BB, 33 GS, 19 QS). Nor did it prevent Joe Nathan from imploding.

Having guys like Jeter and Rivera makes a manager's job a lot easier too.

30 Raf   ~  Oct 12, 2009 11:21 am

The Angels seem to be on a mission

To win the World Series? There are 5 other teams on that same mission.

31 Raf   ~  Oct 12, 2009 11:32 am

Anyone concerned about this:
NYY 2009 PS Batting: .225 .288 .431 .720

No, I'm not concerned.

FWIW, 1st round performances.
2007: .228-.300-.404 (.704)
2006: .246-.303-.388 (.692)
2005: .253-.351-.392 (.742)
2004: .279-.345-.461 (.806)
2003: .275-.344-.384 (.728)
2002: .281-.367-.467 (.834)
2001: .241-.302-.355 (.658)
2000: .244-.309-.333 (.642)
1999: .235-.312-.378 (.689)
1998: .253-.313-.451 (.764)
1997: .259-.346-.410 (.755)
1996: 264-.331-.379 ( .710)

32 Raf   ~  Oct 12, 2009 11:34 am

[20] As I said in the other thread, I don't hate Pavano either. I thought that he shouldn't have been signed, and even after I accepted that he was going to be a Yankee for 4 years, I didn't think he would pitch as little as he did.

33 The Hawk   ~  Oct 12, 2009 11:38 am

I think the Angels-on-a-mission thing stems from their recently deceased teammate. That's a little different from the other teams, no?

34 Raf   ~  Oct 12, 2009 11:49 am

[33] Regardless, if Adenhart were still alive, the Angels organization would still be trying to win the World Series.

35 Bobtaco   ~  Oct 12, 2009 12:50 pm

[3] The first pitch in the sequence between Mo and Mauer missed Posada's target and really drifted back over the heart of the plate. Posada's glove really shifted hard from under Mauer's hands to the outside corner. Mo was very fortunate that Mauer didn't hammer it.

36 Raf   ~  Oct 12, 2009 12:55 pm

[35] Yes, Posada was quite demonstrative after that first pitch missed his target. Actually, that's the first time I remember him doing that.

37 Rich   ~  Oct 12, 2009 4:36 pm


The money is now far better spent for two reason: CC instead of Pavano, Farns, and Teix instead of Giambi.

Yes, homegrown players are irreplaceable. :)

38 Eddie Lee Whitson KO   ~  Oct 12, 2009 6:20 pm

Maybe some unconventional thoughts:

39 Raf   ~  Oct 12, 2009 10:20 pm

Yes, homegrown players are irreplaceable. :)

Don Mattingly was replaced with Tino Martinez ;)

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