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Yankees Take Advantage Of Twinkies' Bullpen Once Again

October 7, 2010 - John Whittaker
After struggling last year in the postseason, maybe it was just Mark Teixeira's time to come through in a big spot.

While C.C. Sabathia carried the Yankees in the postseason in 2009, Teixeira, the other big free agent signing, was dinged up and really struggled at the plate. He hit a big home run against Minnesota in the 2009 ALDS, but it seriously might have been his only hit of the postseason. A quick trip on the Google machine shows that Teixeira hit .400 against the Twins but only .222 with 4 RBI agains the Angels and then a whopping .136 against Philadelphia in the World Series.

It goes to figure then that, on a night when Sabathia might have been better off shot-putting the ball from his butt cheeks than actually throwing it that it would be Teixeira who bailed him out.

It all started with a Teixeira double in the sixth that ended up kick-starting the Yankees rally against Francisco Liriano. After Curtis Granderson's two-run triple gave the Yanks a 4-3 lead, you had to figure the game was over right there. There was no way the Yankees would cough up a late-inning lead against Minnesota, right? Alas, Joe Girardi left Sabathia in one (or two) batters too long and Teixeira came up with a man on in the seventh inning with the game tied. One hanging slider later and Teixeira had another big postseason home run to give the Yankees a lead they wouldn't choke away.

In all, it was a good night for the Yankees, who won a game they had little business winning. For five innings, the offense looked pretty much helpless against Liriano. Not that you could mistake C.C. Sabathia for anyone else, but there were times I swore Javier Vazquez was pitching last night. Jorge Posada allowed a run to score on a passed ball (something that's happened a few too many times for my liking) and Joe Girardi had a massive brainfart that we'll get to in a minute.

Last night was the sort of game you're happy to win. The Yankees played like crap for five innings and looked dead in the water — but an off-game came when they were playing the Twins. There's a lot to admire about Minnesota. They are consistently good even though they don't spend a ton of money. They've gotten the most out of a team that's missing an MVP candidate in Justin Morneau, is starting a guy named Danny Valencia and doesn't have one starting pitcher with what I would classify as outstanding stuff.

The problem for the Twins is they don't spend the money to have a deep bullpen, and it bit them again last night. When Liriano left the game, you'd have sworn a Kirby Puckett montage was playing on the video board. I haven't seen that much tension in a stadium since the Jim Gray-Pete Rose interview. Twins fans had been down this road one too many times — and sure enough, Jesse Crain served up the mother of all hanging sliders to Teixeira. Joe Nathan (the Twins all-star closer who is out for the season) is a great closer, but the rest of the bullpen is ordinary at best, a fact the Yankees exploit every postseason. As much as the TBS announcing crew wants to call it a curse, or a nightmare, or whatever other term they use to explain why Minnesota can't beat the Yankees, it comes down to one immutable fact — Minnesota's bullpen can't get Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira out in key situations. They just don't have the stuff.

After the game, Teixeira said the right thing to the press to keep them thinking the Yankees fear the Twins and feel sorry for Twins fans. "It's just bad luck for Minnesota. We just keep fighting. That's a great team over there. We've played a lot of tough games against them," Teixeira told The Associated Press after the game .

You know he was thinking something closer to this, though.

"Well, when Jesse Crain came into the game, I knew I'd get a pitch to hit — it was just a matter of whether he'd miss with a fastball or miss with a slider. I went down to the cage between innings and took a few swings off a tee, because that's how Crain pitches me, and sure enough, he hung a slider right where Javier (Vazquez) was throwing them to me in batting practice. I couldn't have asked for an easier home run. Next year, when I go to the Home Run Derby, I'm taking the Twins bullpen. I'll win the derby for sure!"

With Carl Pavano taking the hill tonight, I like the Yankees to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Something tells me Andy Pettitte throws a solid six innings of 2 run baseball and the Yankees win. It feels like a 5-3 ballgame to me.

Five more quick thoughts on the opening games of the 2010 playoffs.

1. Start sizing Roy Halladay up for a statue in Philadelphia. He could turn into the next Javier Vazquez (why do all my jokes involve poor Javy. I swear I might be giving the poor guy a complex by now) and still not wear out his welcome in Philly. I managed to catch the last few innings of his no-hitter and was amazed how well he was throwing late in the game. I'm glad the Yankees don't have to face him 4 or 5 times a year anymore but petrified that the road to the World Series championship probably goes through Halladay. Can someone test that guy for steroids?

2. Did Joe Girardi forget his coffee last night? Did he and his wife have a major fight? Did his dog crap in his shoes? There has to be an answer to explain why Girardi didn't take Sabathia out in the sixth. Here's the quick recap. Sabathia gets two quick outs before walking Jim Thome (probably not a bad idea, to be honest). Then, C.C. gives up a rocket double to left by Michael Cuddyer that would have scored anyone else from first base. So, with runners on second and third, C.C. either loses his control or pitches around Jason Kubel. The pitches were relatively close, so I think he was trying to get Kubel out and just couldn't find the plate. Is there an easier out for the bullpento get than Danny Valencia? Seriously. Danny Valencia, a right-handed hitter, was on deck with David Robertson ready in the bullpen. So, Joe, you don't trust Robertson to get a key out in the sixth inning? Why is he on the postseason roster, then? It was obvious to me that Sabathia was really struggling (see, meatballs to Cuddyer that he turned into a two-run home run and the aforementioned double). It was also obvious to me that Girardi didn't want any part of his bullpen in that situation. I know that last year, Girardi would have changed pitchers three times just against Valencia, so I don't know why he would let Sabathia stay in the game to walk Valencia with the bases loaded and force in a run. Like I said, I don't know what happened to Girardi, but maybe somebody should send him some Five Hour Energy before tonight's game so he doesn't fall asleep again.

3. The end of the line might have come quickly for Tampa Bay. They were really counting on David Price to get their series with Texas started off on the right foot, but Price was brutal against the Rangers last night. Now, Tampa Bay's counting on James Shields, who has been just as shaky as A.J. Burnett down the stretch, and that raucous 10,000 person throng at Tropicana Field to help right the ship. If Texas scores two runs in the first inning, the only thing you'll hear at Tropicana Field will be Dick Vitale's head exploding.

4. The Giants and Braves series kicks off tonight. While I don't anticipate being awake long enough to see how the game ends, it's imperative for the Braves to win the first game. Tim Lincecum is a good pitcher, but his stuff isn't as good as it was even last year. He's lost a couple of miles an hour on his fastball and that funky delivery isn't fooling quite as many people as it once did. With that said, if the Braves don't beat Lincecum tonight, I think they'll get swept. Matt Cain, for my money, is the best pitcher on the Giants staff and Jonathan Sanchez has the possibility to throw a no-hitter every time he takes the mound. For a team that doesn't have Chipper Jones in the middle of the lineup, I'd be awfully worried about Cain and Sanchez overpowering my lineup. If the Braves don't win tonight, Bobby Cox might not get a chance to make his latest playoff managerial screwup.

5. If you're the Reds, is today the worst day possible to have an off-day? Your high-powered offense just got no-hit, you're losing your playoff series and now you get to hear about it for an extra day because you don't play until Friday. How does Halladay's no-hitter not get into your head at that point? And, what happens Friday when the Reds hitters step into the box against Roy Oswalt, who preys on over-anxious hitters. The Reds might set a record for longest time taken to get a hit in a playoff series. I feel sorry for Cincinatti baseball fans. Your team stinks for a decade. When you finally get to the postseason, you get no-hit in the first game of your playoff series. Sheesh. At least the Bengals are good. What, too soon?


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