Before the regular season ended, Joe Girardi stated that Tuesday’s American League Wild Card game is like an ALDS Game 5 or a ALCS Game 7.
Coincidentally, Minnesota’s starter is Ervin Santana, who once was responsible for ending a Yankees season in a Game 5.
The Angels and Yankees met in the 2005 ALDS, and Mike Scioscia put Santana, then a rookie, on the postseason roster. The series came down to a decisive Game 5, with Mike Mussina and Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon matched up as the starting pitchers.
Robinson Cano led off the second inning against Colon, but the starting pitcher left because of an inflamed right shoulder.
“I think it was the second inning Bartolo got hurt, and I was in the bullpen, and they called me up to pitch against a good team, against the Yankees. I throw, I think it was five innings, and now I’m in there opening the game. That was what I remember about it,” Santana recalled on Monday.
Santana gave up two runs in the second but then bore down. The Angels scored three times in the bottom of the second, with Adam Kennedy tripling in the infamous Gary Sheffield-Bubba Crosby collision. Anaheim added two runs in the third to go up 5-2.
Santana kept a lineup with Sheffield, AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui at bay. The rookie pitched into the seventh inning. Derek Jeter led off the inning with a homer, and Santana induced A-Rod on a grounder to short.
Santana gave up three runs in 5.1 innings, and Kelvim Escobar and Francisco Rodriguez combined to record the final eight outs.
Now Santana can end another Yankees season, as he prepares to face Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. “Anything can happen,” Santana said. “It’s two Dominicans going at it. It’s a one-game Playoff, and anything can happen.”
Unlike 2005, Santana will be pitching at Yankee Stadium. Make it the very hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. “The ballparks are small. Balls carry here,” Santana. “You can see that any flyball is going to be a home run or off the wall. There’s nothing you can do about it. They’re not going to change it anyway. Anything I say or not say, they’re not going to change it. So just have to deal with it.”
It’s 12 years later, Santana is now on the Twins, and it’s a completely different Yankees team. The pressure is on the Yankees. Virtually all the experts are picking them to win. New York won 91 games and Minnesota won 85. And the Yankees usually dominate the Twins in the Bronx.
But Ervin Santana is looking for a repeat of 2005.