Images courtesy of Keith Allison, Wigstruck
The term "Must Win" has become stale at best. Really: "If we lose we're screwed" offers more candor and edge. So says history.
After Wednesday's 7-2 loss to the Yanks in Game 1 of the ALDS, the Twins took the day off Thursday and, from our vantage 1,200 miles away, we can only hope & trust that they Boys got some much needed rest.
I don't like the Best-of-five format. That's not said to bemoan our chances at this stage (really), it's truly a broader brush painting the frustrating fact that since baseball brought in the Wild Card and Divisional Series 5-game format in 1995, just four teams -- Seattle ('95), Red Sox (99'), Yankees ('01), Red Sox ('03) -- have ever come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a Divisional series. These should be seven games, which afford teams the true opportunity to flesh out their personalities. After grinding through 162 (or more) contests, why the hell not just play it all the way out? The best-of-five can take a team (that's not to say us) from an emotional zenith to, well, vacation, in four damn days.
Really, the Twins are far from being out of this. Keep faith, gentle readers. And enjoy capsules for the next two playoffs ballgames -- Game 2 today at 5 Central in NYC and Game 3 back here at home on Sunday at 6 p.m. Central. If necessary: times are now also listed for Game 4 (Metrodome, Monday 10/12 at 4 p.m. Central) and Game 5 (Yankee Stadium, Wednesday, 10/14 at 5 p.m. Central).
ALDS Game 2 at Yankee Stadium -- Friday, October 9th -- 5 p.m. Central on TBS
Nick Blackburn - RHP (11-11, 4.03 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett - RHP (13-9, 4.04 ERA)
Nick Blackburn is the guy we want in this situation. After his sterling performance in last year's game 163
and his work down this stretch this year (4 starts, 27.1 innings pitched, just 5 runs allowed), Blackburn has well-evidenced his guts in tense ballgames. As he's never beaten the Yanks in four career starts, he'll need to display such mettle again tonight. He was solid in his lone appearance against the Pinstripes this season, going 7.2 innings and allowing 4 Earned in a No Decision back on May 15th. Blackburn was second in the American League this year in Walks-per-9 innings (1.8), and he'll need that control readily on display tonight as the Yankees proved early how their power can quickly twist a ballgame. Blackburn surrendered 25 Home Runs this season, but if he can limit the walks -- solo Home Runs generally don't kill a club. Active Yankees hit him at a collective .311 clip; Mark Teixeira is 6-for-6 against him lifetime with 5 RBI.
Burnett inked an $87.5 million dollar contract with New York in the offseason, making him the 6th-highest paid starter in all of baseball. The guy is talented (sometimes), but that was truly a ridiculous sum for a fella that's never won 19 games in a season and came to New York with
87 lifetime wins. Burnett will rack up some strikeouts (he's tallied 195 or more four times in his career), but he's also apt to be wild -- his 97 walks led the A.L. this season, as did his 17 wild pitches. The good doctor best prescribe some patience to Twins hitters, four of whom hit Burnett at a lifetime clip of .294 or better. This will be Burnett's third start against the Twins this season, and Bread Basket backers collectively hope this outing will prove his worst as A.J. was better than O.K. in his previous two, going a collective 13 innings and giving up just 4 runs. As a caveat, Jose Molina will do the catching tonight instead of Jorge Posada. Over the course of the season, the Burnett/Molina battery held hitters to a 49-point lower batting average than did the Burnett/Posada battery.
ALDS Game 3 at HHH Metrodome -- Sunday, October 11th -- 6 p.m. Central on TBS
Andy Pettitte - LHP (14-8, 4.16 ERA) vs. Carl Pavano - RHP (14-12, 5.10 ERA)
Remember in Ghostbusters II
when all the hate in New York manifested itself into that sludge? Well, if it still exists, Yankee fans would surely love to sling that muck at Pavano. After signing a nearly $40 million contract with the Yanks after the 2004 season, Pavano battled health issues and made just 26 starts for them in the ensuing four seasons. He won just 9 games in that time span. Pavano has made two previous starts against New York this year (both while he was with Cleveland), and he performed admirably in two No Decisions, going a combined 13.1 innings and giving up just 4 runs. While batsmen Damon, Jeter, Teixeira, and A-Rod hit Pavano at a collective .387 clip (12-for-31), the other half of the lineup has proven polar with Swisher, Cano, Matsui and Molina sporting just a .143 line (3-for-21). And digging deeper through the annals -- don't forget Pavano's performance in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series versus the Yanks when, as a Marlin, Pavano went 8 innings and gave up just a lone run to outduel Roger Clemens in an October classic that Florida eventually won in 12.
In the 37-year-old Pettitte, the Twins face one of baseball's most consistent and successful hurlers from the last 20 years. Pettitte has double-digit wins in each of his 15 MLB season, sans his injury-plagued 2004 (the second season in which he later admitted to taking Human Growth Hormone
). In addition, his 14 postseason wins are tied for second-most all-time. One of those 14 came versus the Twins in the 2003 ALDS when Pettitte limited Minnesota to just one run in 7 innings of labor. In brief: dude won't be nervous. But he should be ready for a battle
-- active Twins as a collective hit Pettitte at a clip of .382, led by Delmon Young's .643, Brendan Harris' .471 and Cuddy's .357. This is Pettitte's second appearance against the Twins this season; back on May 18th he earned a victory after allowing 4 runs in 6.2. innings.
Read Alt. weekly 2009 Baseball Throwdown coverage for:
St. Louis Cardinals: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/therundown
Boston Red Sox: http://www.weeklydig.com/blogs/mlbthrowdown
Minnesota Twins: http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/baseball/
Colorado Rockies: http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/baseball/
New York Yankees: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/baseball/
Los Angeles Dodgers: http://blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily/sports/
Anaheim/LA Angels: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/baseball/