Yanks' dominance of Twins record-setting
Eighth win in a row over Minnesota in playoffs unprecedented
MINNEAPOLIS -- This postseason, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has taken to reciting a favorite slogan of his teammate, Derek Jeter.
"We want to win every game we play," Rodriguez said, echoing Jeter after the Yankees beat the Twins, 5-2, in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Every game -- seems impossible, right?
Not against the Twins.
The Yankees' victory on Thursday was their eighth straight postseason win against Minnesota, the longest such winning streak against any one team in postseason history.
"They're all close games," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "It's not like we've been winning 10-1. Their starters have pitched well. We've just been grinding."
Including a three-game first-round sweep at the hands of the A's in 2006, the Twins have now dropped a total of 11 consecutive postseason games.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have never lost a postseason game in Minnesota, going 7-0 with a series-clinching victory in Game 3 of last year's ALDS at the Metrodome. Andy Pettitte and Carl Pavano, that game's starting pitchers, reprised their roles in a head-to-head matchup on Thursday. And Pettitte once again got the best of Pavano, this time tossing seven innings of two-run ball for his record 19th career postseason win.
"I think it's just pitching," catcher Jorge Posada said of the streak. "We have pitched well."
Hughes embraces pressure of Game 3
MINNEAPOLIS -- Phil Hughes didn't know he would be starting a game in the playoffs -- let alone a series-clinching game.
"I didn't necessarily know it was coming," Hughes said of the Yankees' decision to use him for Saturday's American League Division Series Game 3 against the Twins. "We have a lot of options we could have gone to. I'm just happy to be given the opportunity and hopefully make the most of it."
In reality, the Yankees had few options, considering how well Hughes has pitched this season -- and how poorly his main competition for a playoff start, A.J. Burnett, has thrown. Including a sharp inning of relief last weekend against the Red Sox, Hughes completed his first full season as a starting pitcher with an 18-8 record and a 4.19 ERA.
Hughes' critics will point to his 4.90 ERA after the All-Star break as evidence that he faded somewhat down the stretch. His proponents, including manager Joe Girardi, will look simply at his final three outings of the season, in which Hughes posted a 1-0 record with a 2.70 ERA.
And now Hughes can lean on his postseason history. Last October and November, he appeared in relief in nine of the Yankees' 15 postseason games, struggling with an 8.53 ERA but gaining valuable experience along the way.
"Just having that experience last year helps," Hughes said. "The playoffs are magnified, and this is the biggest start of the year for me. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
So, too, are the Yankees, who will rely on Hughes to help them knock out the Twins without so much as a whimper.
"I just hope Phil comes ready and pitches a good ballgame," catcher Jorge Posada said. "We need him to step up. We haven't done anything yet."
Girardi open to revised replay in October
MINNEAPOLIS -- One idea Yankees manager Joe Girardi has brainstormed about is expanding instant replay for postseason games, perhaps stationing an extra umpire in front of a video screen so calls could be made on demand.
The comment comes on the heels of Wednesday's trapped-ball call in the ninth inning of American League Division Series Game 1, which the Yankees believe was actually a game-ending shoestring catch by right fielder Greg Golson.
Right-field umpire Chris Guccione ruled the play a trapped ball, giving Delmon Young a single. The umpires convened to discuss the call at Girardi's request, but the original call stood, bringing up power-hitting Jim Thome representing the tying run. Mariano Rivera got the slugger to pop out, preserving a 6-4 Yankees win.
"The thing about expanded replay, for me, is could they review that play as quickly as they talked about it? Probably," Girardi said. "It's the same amount of time; it may even be less time. Once a play is reviewed, you're not really allowed to argue it.
"There are times where the umpires talk, convene, they come back with a decision and then they might argue for a while. It could actually speed up the game."
Girardi said that he doesn't believe it hurts to have the outfield umpires during postseason games, though Guccione's call reminded many of last year's ALDS, when left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi called a Joe Mauer drive foul, though the ball landed in fair territory.
Instant replay could eliminate those instances, Girardi said, and he would be in favor of expanding its use as long as it does not affect the pace of the game.
"To me, that's the great thing about technology," Girardi said. "They can slow everything down, and there are different things that you can do. You could have an umpire right in front of a TV, and it could be [quick]."
Robertson reprises 'Houdini' act
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was in Game 2 of last year's American League Division Series that Yankees right-hander Dave Robertson authored a postseason moment to remember, wriggling out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam to preserve a 3-3 tie against the Twins.
Mark Teixeira hit a game-winning home run against the Twins in that game, as he did in Wednesday's Game 1 of the ALDS at Target Field, and Robertson is still wriggling out of jams as well. His swinging strikeout of Jim Thome ended the seventh inning, capping what Alex Rodriguez called "a beautiful sequence."
"I wouldn't say [my confidence] has increased," said the 25-year-old Robertson, who had a 3.82 ERA in 64 appearances this year. "Maybe my ability to get out of them has gotten a little better, I don't know. Every situation like that is different. You just try to find a way to get out of it."
After walking Delmon Young to put two on with two outs, Thome stepped in, owning 589 regular-season homers. Robertson buzzed a first-pitch fastball over the plate for a called strike, then threw Thome three consecutive curveballs, the last one with nasty break into the dirt that Thome waved at.
"It's the same pitch, just location -- that's really all it is," Robertson said.