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Three Twins relievers faced eleven batters, gave up but one hit and a walk and no Yankees crossed the plate.

Luis Castillo opened the game with his sixth infield hit, which leads the majors.

In the sixth inning, Michael Cuddyer fielded Derek Jeter's hard-hit single and threw a bullet to nail Johnny Damon at third base. A work of beauty: the throw was on a line right to Nick Punto, who spun and whacked the runner just in time. Damon's slide sent Punto tumbling head over heels, only to hold his glove up to show that, indeed, he'd held on. This led to some awesome histrionics on the part of the ump, who pointed an accusing finger at the fallen third baseman and jabbed at the air like he was piercing the hide of an elephant. More umps ought to go crazy like that now and again.

In the eighth, Dennys Reyes pulled a Satchel on tonight's Twin-killer, Bobby Abreau. Abreau had, at this point, already tucked four RBIs under his belt from a single and a home run. So Reyes throws three straight balls to keep the guy off-kilter and then bam, bam, bam, a strike-out. Satch used to set 'em up like this, so that he could toss two fat pitches he knew the batter wouldn't swing at, and then got him looking on a snappy something or other, like a bee-ball.

Now, I'm pretty damned certain that Reyes wasn't taking a page from the book of Satchel (no pun intended), but one of the great joys of this punishing sport is that you can fall backward and into the distant past when the present is a strong disappointment. And tonight's game was not a strong disappointment if only because it's tempered with the thought that the season is a long one and it is but one game.

For here's another set of numbers: Sidney Ponson went five and a third innings. He gave up eight runs on ten hits and looked as though he dripped about two gallons of sweat. That's about all you need to know about this evening.

My guess is that Ponson was charged up to show the home crowd something, having missed a start last Friday's start in Chicago thanks to the bitter cold. Maybe he was a bit shell-shocked. And I have to say that, at first, it appeared that he was suffering from some awful luck. Johnny Damon started off with a broken-bat bloop, nothing more than a gesture of fate, a soft fly that landed right on the line and far enough behind Morneau and just ahead of Cuddyer to give the speedy Mr. Damon enough time to bolt to second. Yes, I will blame Ponson for Jeter and Abreau's solid hits following that double, the latter's bringing Damon home. But it could have ended there. Instead, Jorge Posada popped a long fly which should only have sent Jeter in on the sacrifice. But Jason Kubel turned in a half circle and chased some shadows before watching a very catchable fly to bounce into the left field seats, scoring two more.

Ponson got out of that inning after a fly ball and a ground out kept the score only 3-0. But give the Yankees credit: I don't know what the scouting reports said about our big pitcher, but it appeared that the Yankees were told to strike quickly and often. Uninterested in full pitch counts, they put the ball into play, aggressively going after Ponson and his four-seam and dangling slider. If it's in the zone, smack it. And smack it they did.

The next inning wasn't any better: Damon and Abreau scored again, this time on a two-run home run after a scrappy at-bat by the latter, taking Ponson deep after nine pitches. Again, the Yankees opened free swinging, forcing Ponson to use his noggin and mix up his pitches, and for a time he was feeding them stuff they couldn't hit. Not really, for the law of averages in a game where a round bat hits a round ball means everything in play isn't going where the defenders ain't. He wasn't fooling anyone, really, but Ponson made it through five, having only tossed 80 pitches. It seemed as though those pesky five runs, some of which were bad breaks, made an OK performance look worse than it was.

Or so I thought. There's only so much you can give a guy who gives up eight runs and ten hits. Unlucky? Maybe a couple of those runs were unlucky, but really this game was over by the second inning.

So after that mercifully short contest (two and a half hours), it would easy for me to second guess the Twins decisions, and though I'm happy to do so on most occasions, I'll hang it up tonight. Carlos Silva's performance Saturday shut me up a bit, Santana's was an Easter gift (though not as great as this one {thanks Z}), and tonight's scoring derby from Sidney Ponson didn't make me want to rip my hair out and wish that Boof was in (though I thought he was the second starter after Santana). Ponson's giving up such a smorgasbord of runs also helped one forget both Kubel's blunder and Cuddyer's baserunning gaffe (his second since Saturday), taking off from second on a Torii Hunter ground ball to short. Well, Jeter didn't throw to first but instead tagged the bonehead on his way to third base.

Sigh. Well, Boof will get his chance tomorrow, and against Andy Pettitte, which should be a great match between two workhorses. Kind of like the fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac. So, remember: there's 156 games remaining. For now, steady as she goes.


Conversations Real & Imagined: Around the Dome

In the booth and gaping at one of the many tidbits on Yankees information sheet: "Look at this thing: When Pavano started on Opening Day for the Yanks, no pitcher had started on Opening Day after such a long absence since Vinegar Bend Mizell... Jesus, I'd bet you five hundred bucks no other pro sport has names like Vinegar Bend...


...


In the booth, when Jeter got 'hit' by a pitch (it must've brushed him): "Man, it certainly looks like Jeter talked his way on base. That oughta be a stat: Talk Base Percentage. Jeter'd win every time."


...


A locker room attendant, late after the game, complaining about some superstar on the visiting team: "I can't wait for everyone to leave and then start cleaning! For God's sake, I want to go to sleep. I don't live in New York for a reason..."


...

As the lights dimmed a bit over the field and the crowds emptied, to my surprise two high school teams take the field to play a very late game. Virginia High School v. Nashwauk High School. Talking with Scott, the proud parent of the catcher of the Virginia team, the boys always open the season in the Dome, after whatever game's being played. "After all, there's snow up in Virginia," he laughed. "I just hope the snow's gone for Friday's game. But that's how it is.

"Needless to say, they won't be in class tomorrow!"


...


And one of our distinguished sportswriters, grousing about the little kids cheering their brothers in the high school game while he's trying to get tomorrow's article written. "That's another good thing about an open air stadium. We won't have to listen to those little shits anymore..."


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