The Yankees limped into this series, but it hasn’t mattered much; if the Twins didn’t have bad luck against the Yankees, they wouldn’t have no luck at all. Minnesota lost two one-run games in the space of an evening – the second half of last night’s suspended Scoreless Wonder, which ended up a 1-0 Yanks win thanks to Derek Jeter’s solo home run (and lead-preserving nifty defensive play), and then tonight’s 3-2 duel, which saw Andy Pettitte prevail over Francisco Liriano. Mariano Rivera saved both games, and if he didn’t quite radiate moonbeams and rose petals and ride off the field on a pegasus like he normally does, it was at least a step in the right direction.
I figured on the bullpen being a minefield today (as just getting through nine innings has proved plenty tough enough for those guys recently), but David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Mo staggered through to the end of the first game unscathed, and Andy Pettitte gave everyone a break tonight by throwing 72 of his 94 pitches for strikes — “attack-tastic,” as my friend put it — powering through eight relatively smooth innings with a little help from his good friend the DP grounder. Safe to say he’s showing no ill effects from his recent elbow issue (…well, safe to say, but I’m knocking on wood anyway, just in case). He hit a few speed bumps: in the first inning, when my guy Denard Span doubled, stole third, and was delivered to home plate by Joe Mauer; and in the seventh, with Delmon Young’s RBI double. Beyond that, though Pettitte allowed eight hits, he walked no one, struck out four, and was generally able to keep his anguished, muttered self-criticism on the mound to a minimum. When he induced Joe Mauer to hit into the Twins’ third DP of the night and end the eighth inning, his fist pump was downright Joba-esque.
With the Yankees still staging their community theater adaptation of Waiting For Godot, starring Mark Teixeira’s offense (“We are all born mad. Some remain so”), they patched together a few runs from the bottom of the lineup. In the fourth Francisco Cervelli went all speed-demon on the Twins, beat out a potential double play throw, and scored from first on Kevin “Strong Island” Russo’s double; Russo himself scored in the seventh inning when Brett Gardner tripled. (“Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!”).
Each team had two runs and eight hits when Nick Swisher came to the plate in the top of the ninth to face Jon Rauch and his neck tattoos. The third pitch of the at-bat was a ripe fastball, and we can only hope its violent death was quick and painless, as Swisher absolutely creamed it. It soared over the right field wall and gave them a 3-2 lead that they held onto, thanks to a much more Mariano-like Rivera appearance than we saw in the first game. Take a deep breath, the Yankees won another series.