C.C. Sabathia pitched pretty well, but pretty well wasn’t going to get it done against Francisco Liriano tonight. No, scratch that. Liriano was magnificent, but in the sixth inning his slider turned back into a pumpkin and the Yankees – no, never mind, in the sixth inning Sabathia lost it and the Twins finally – nope. It was Curtis Granderson – no, it was Mark Teixeira who – it was Mariano – the blown call in the ninth could’ve… screw it, the Yankees won, 6-4.
I went through quite a few different ledes tonight.
Initially, it looked like Francisco Liriano was going to out-ace C.C. Sabathia. The Hefty Lefty wasn’t bad, but his mistakes were taken full advantage off: a two-run Michael Cuddyer home run in the second inning, and a failure to cover first base quickly enough one inning later — combined with heads-up Orlando Hudson base running and a Posada passed ball — led to a 3-0 hole for the Yankees. At the time, that seemed like a lot of runs.
Meanwhile, for the first five innings, Liriano alternated between merely pitching well and making the Yankees look ridiculous. During his streak of 10 New York batters retired in a row, hitters like Gardner and Granderson and Alex Rodriguez were cutting loose with swings that came nowhere near the ball in either time or space.
But then all of a sudden Liriano turned mortal – or perhaps, to be less dramatic about it, in their third time through the order the Yanks just got a better feel for him. Mark Texeira got things started with a double, and Alex Rodriguez, who had struck out flailing on three pitches in his previous at-bat, worked a walk. Robinson Cano singled, and after a rather hapless-looking Marcus Thames struck out, Jorge Posada had a fantastic at-bat and pushed a single into right. Curtis Granderson’s triple finished the Yanks’ scoring in that inning, and also finished Francico Liriano’s night.
The bottom of that inning wasn’t any kinder to Sabathia, who had a very un-C.C. meltdown (“you’re being very un-Dude, Dude”). A walk, a double, and another walk loaded the bases, at which point Sabathia walked in the Twins’ tying run in the person of Danny Valencia (who has been a pleasant surprise for the Twins this season and is about to become an unpleasant surprise for a lot of Yankee fans). Yoicks. He recovered to strike out J.J. Hardy and end the inning, but the lead was already gone and everyone headed into the seventh inning all tied up at 4.
It was Texeira who led the second Yankee comeback, too, following a Nick Swisher single with a high, slow two-run home run just fair to right field. (I don’t know if it was an actual phenomenon or just a product of weird camera work, but the fly balls hit tonight seemed to have an unusually long hang time; I could’ve recited “Jabberwocky” in its entirety while waiting for that ball to come down on one side of the foul pole. Joe Girardi was shown yelling “Stay fair! Stay fair!” and his leadership skills with inanimate objects must be impressive, because it worked). So now the Yankees had a 6-4 lead, but with as many reversals as this game had, nobody was relaxing.
The Yankee pen kept things right there, although not without a few terrifying moments. It took the combined efforts of Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Kerry Wood to get the ball to Mariano Rivera, with two outs in the eighth and runners on second and third. And Rivera — who one of these days will start showing some cracks in his 40-year-old facade, but not today — got Denard (“No Relation Unless He Has Some Short Uncoordinated Jewish Relatives We Don’t Know About”) Span to do what hitters traditionally do against Mariano Rivera, and ground out.
The ninth inning would’ve been another by-the-numbers Rivera classic except that the third out, a shoestring catch by defensive replacement Greg Golson, was incorrectly ruled a trap by the umpires. As if we needed yet another argument for instant replay in the postseason, and if the Yankees had gone on to lose I would’ve suggested a Tweet-up at MLB Headquarters with pitchforks and torches. Instead, Jim Thome popped up the first pitch he saw, and the 6-4 lead held up.
For all the tsuris over how hard the Yankees should play for the Division as opposed to the Wild Card, the Twins lost their home field advantage along with this game. Andy Pettitte starts Game 2 tomorrow for roughly the 300th time in his career, and with the Yanks up 1-0 in the Series, I look forward to actually being able to breath during that one.