The Yankees took a 2-1 series lead last night behind a strong six innings from Kevin Brown. The offense put the game away the middle innings; every Yankee had a hit with the exception of Alex Rodriguez, who went 0-4. Derek Jeter went 3-5 with 3 RBI, Gary Sheffield had two hits and smoked the ball every time up (save his first trip), and Bernie Williams lined a two-run homer which helped break the game open. Paul Quanrill pitched very well in relief. The only downer for the Yankees was that Mariano Rivera had to enter the game to record the final three outs.
Felix Heredia, who relieved Quantrill to get the final out of the eighth, started the ninth by hitting Corey Koskie and Lew Ford. Tanyon Sturtze replaced him and gave up an infield hit to Christian Guzman--his third such hit of the night--which loaded the bases. Michael Cuddyer lined sharply to center scoring Koskie. The score was 8-2 and Torre brought Rivera in. Mariano retired all three men he faced, with two inconsequential runs scoring in the process. After the game, Torre was more upset about having used Sturtze--who won't be available today--than Rivera. Anyhow, it was a cruddy way to end a solid win, a real buzz kill.
It was far from the thriller that we witnessed in Game Two, but hey, a win is a win. Without jumping ahead of ourselves, it was a game the Yanks needed. Jacque Jones hit a solo home run in the first off of Brown, but the Yankees came back in the second with five straight two-out singles off of Carlos Silva to jump ahead 3-1. Several of the hits were bloops (Cairo, Lofton), and two others (Olerud, Jeter) were a result of turf field. After Bernie launched his line-drive homer (on a hit-and-run play of all things) in the sixth, Derek Jeter came up with a two-out, two-run single.
Torii Hunter lead off the bottom of the inning and dumped a double into left field. Hideki Matsui botched the play and the ball kicked off his back foot. Hunter gambled and continued on to third. But Matsui was able to recover and throw him out. It was not a smart play considering the situation. After Justin Morneau flied out to Godzilla for the second out, Corey Koskie lined a base hit into left center field. He tested Bernie Williams, which has become standard practice for the League, but Bernie made a perfect throw to second to nail Koskie for the third out.
It was just one of those nights for the Twins. And it got worse in the top of the seventh when Hunter characteristically tracked down a long line drive by Matsui on the warning track. Hunter had the ball in his glove as he crashed into the outfield wall. But he could not hang on to it, and the ball bounced out of his mitt, over the fence for a home run. That pretty much said it all for the Twins, who look to their ace, Johnan Santana, pitching on three-days rest, to keep their season alive later today.
It may be tempting for the Yankees, and their fans, to gear up for the Boston Red Sox, who completed a sweep of the Angels in style yesterday. But should Minnesota win today, anything can happen in New York tomorrow night. Red Sox Nation is flying high, their confidence is soaring, and they would like nothing more than to trample the Yanks on their way to the World Serious. They have until Tuesday night to soak up the good vibes. Their rotation will be set up exactly how they want it. Then all they need to do is go out and win the eight biggest games in franchise history.