By the time Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series between the Yankees and Twins got underway last night, it already felt like an afterthought of a game. Cliff Lee had spent the early part of the day dominating and befuddling the Tampa Bay Rays and Roy Halladay followed up the afternoon’s excitement by pitching only the second no-hitter in postseason history. As the final game on the day’s LDS agenda, there was very little the Yanks or Twins could do to top the day’s fireworks.
Sure enough, the game — which the Yankees won 6-4 — was a tense, exciting, but ultimately unmemorable affair. CC Sabathia (6 5 4 3 3 5) had moments of dominance and moments of shakiness and it was evident that the fine line between those two states was always just around the corner. Nowhere was this more evident than in the bottom of the 6th inning. After retiring the first two batters (10 consecutive outs at that point), Sabathia lost command of his pitches and threw 14 balls over a series of 16 pitches to four different batters. The resulting walk-double-walk-walk sequence led to the Twins tying the game at 4-4 before Sabathia was able to recover the strike zone for an inning-ending strikeout.
By contrast, Twins ace Francisco Liriano (5.2 6 4 4 3 7) was in complete control of the game, never teetering between dominance and catastrophe. Liriano collected an impressive 14 swinging strikes, mostly on a slider that he was throwing in any count and spotting all over the map. And then, suddenly, the Yankees pieced together a double by Teixeira, a walk by Rodriguez, singles by Cano and Posada and a triple by Granderson to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 and the end to Liriano’s night.
All told, the Yankees didn’t play their best game last night. As was the case with Sabathia, the rest of the Yankee pitching staff — Boone Logan, David Robertson, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera — struggled to consistently find the strike zone, allowing five baserunners and throwing 67 pitches to get nine outs. Nevertheless, the Twins were not able to capitalize on their opportunities late in the game, Mark Teixeira’s mammoth pull-shot down the RF line gave the Yankees the 6-4 lead they would not relinquish and the team did just enough to win in order to grab a 1-0 lead in the series.
Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.28 2010 / 18-9, 3.90 career playoffs) matches up with ex-Yankee Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75 2010 / 2-1, 1.71 career playoffs) this evening for Game 2.