Bronx, NY – Derek Jeter came up with the big hit and so did Alex Rodriguez. The new Yankee Stadium with over 49,000 fans was christened with the first playoff game and it was so appropriate that Jeter got the big hit, his 18th career post season home run in the third inning.
“It felt like the old place,” said Jeter who reached base safely four times as the New York Yankees took game one of the American League Division Series with a 7-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. “We couldn’t have drawn it up any better for us,” he said. The Yankees win marked two years to the day of their previous postseason win, an 8-4 victory on October 7, 2007 in game three of the ALDS against Cleveland.
Jeter would tie the score 2-2 and starting pitcher CC Sabathia earned the win snapping a three-game post season losing streak. The Yankees bullpen took over for Sabathia after
6 2/3rd innings and it reminded everyone of how the Yankees did it in the postseason when they won four world championships under then manager Joe Torre.
More importantly, Rodriquez snapped a 0-for18 career postseason mark with runners in scoring position and two outs. He was 2-for-3, all two out hits that included an RBI single in the seventh inning that drove in Jeter who scored three runs.
“It definitely felt good,” commented Rodriguez who was the center of attention when he came to the plate for the first time. The Yankees failures to advance past the first round of the postseason against Cleveland, and in their previous appearance in 2005 and 2006 partly was attributed to Rodriguez and his failure to get runners home from scoring position.
So Rodriguez getting the pos t season monkey off his back, Jeter doing his usual postseason heroics and Sabathia doing what he came here to do was definitely what the Yankees needed as they look to take game two Friday evening in the Bronx. In that game A.J., Burnett gets the start for New York, and they could go for a sweep Sunday with Andy Pettitte on the mound at Minnesota for game three facing former Yankee pitcher Carl Pavano. .
“This is what you come here for,” said Sabathia. “It was electric tonight,” he said about the ovation he received with every pitch and when manager Joe Girardi removed him from the game after throwing 113 pitches. “The place got loud,” added Sabathia. “Him (Jeter) starting out the game with a single and then tying the score right back. It just made me want to go back out there and get three quick outs.”
The Twins, who clinched the American League Central division the evening before at home in an extra inning tie breaking win over Detroit, were not blaming their late arrival in New York as the reason as to why they lost game one. The loss was attributed more to Sabathia on a night when the wind was blowing to all sides of the field.
“I kind of think CC Sabathia stress,” commented Twins manager Ron Gardenhire when asked if the late night arrival of his team had an effect on the game. “That was what we envisioned when we signed him, that CC would be pitching in October and November,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi who got his first postseason win as a manager.
Added Gardenhire, “I think the big thing is you get a two-run lead quick and as soon as you get back out, it’s a 2-2 ball game with a homer. That’s a little deflating. When you get a lead, you want to go back out there and shut them down. And Jeter does what he does best. He got his team right back in it.”
Designated hitter Hideki Matsui hit his seventh career postseason home run, his third in the postseason against the Twins. That came in the fifth inning with one on and opened a 6-2 lead for New York. And of course, Mariano Rivera would close the game and lowered his all-time postseason ERA 0.76.“
Everything worked to perfection for the Yankees, just like it has the entire season. With the exception of a couple of passed balls that got by catcher Jorge Posada, it was the first of hopefully ten more wins that will get the Yankees their 27th world championship.
“We wanted to come out here and set the tone,” said Jeter. They certainly did that Wednesday evening and as Jeter said, “we have to come out with the same intensity and win game two,”
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com