Friday, October 8, 2010
Pettitte Comes Up Big
By Tony Mangia
YANKEES LEAD SERIES 2-0
If the Twins are tying to impress Martha Stewart it's a good thing, but all the begonias in Minnesota still can't spruce up the play of the Twins or hide the smell of impending defeat. The designers of Target Field probably thought the pretty flowers and trees which adorn the outfield walls would be a nice touch. Last night, he Twins sent out once vilified ex-Yankee Carl Pavano to face his former team's playoff veteran Andy Pettitte and, in the end, the visitors contributed some funeral orchids as a parting gift.
In every game, it seems like the Twins' team never get a lead they don't handily give back to the Yankees. Regular season or playoffs, its always the same. The Twins were the hottest team coming into the playoffs and, for the Yankees, it was the "Core Four"s Final Tour. Now it looks like the Bronx Bombers were only playing possum. The line-up has come up with timely hits and the uncertainty of Pettitte has been answered.
Pettitte settled down after a shaky second and went seven solid innings. There was no sign of the groin-pull which kept him side-lined for seven weeks until ten days ago.
The left-hander had a little help from his fellow Texan and former-Astros teammate, Lance Berkman, who doubled in the seventh. All those Yankee fans who were hopping-mad yesterday about not having a replay booth were grateful the video-umps are still on the shelf.
"Fat Elvis" was happy about it. In the seventh inning, broadcast replays showed Pavano threw a strike three to Berkman while home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it ball two. On the next pitch, Berkman promptly launched a run-scoring double giving the Bronx Bombers a 3-2 lead they never relinquished. The flora in centerfield wilted after that call.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire bore the brunt of his team's mounting frustrations. The call was at a crucial point in the game and his foul language got him tossed from the game. Gardenhire's ire is understandable since he has skippered all of the Twins' playoff ousters by the Yankees in 2003, 2004 and 2009. Yesterday's loss makes it 8 straight ALDS to the pinstriped team.
Berkman also homered in the fifth to give the Yankees the lead before the controversial run. Yankee outfielder, Nick Swisher called it, "A Texas two-step. It was amazing for Andy to go out there like that, and his Texas neighbor provided the pop for him." Berkman said last week that one big hit in the series would wipe out the disappointment of his first couple of months in the Bronx. Last night's performance should be a good springboard to feeling like a real contributor.
Pettitte was considered by many to be a question mark coming into the series. After returning from a groin injury, he was middling in three tune-up starts. The Twins had Pettitte on the ropes in the second inning. He looked tentative but escaped a bases-loaded, one out situation by giving up only one run. His cutter returned and he retired the next 12 Twins batters.
The gritty Pettitte always reaches back and comes up big in the playoffs. There have been more important games and has been more dominating but a lot was riding on coming back from an injury at his advanced age. His post-season record of 19-9 can attest to his greatness. CC Sabathia may be the work horse for New York, but it is Pettitte who you want on the mound for the pivotal game. When Pettitte peaks over his glove and his glare is on...batters beware!